Memorizing times tables may be a way of the past. A new method of teaching math in elementary school, called Singapore math, has become increasingly popular with teachers. This new method focuses less on memorization and more on getting children to understand the relationship between the numbers in the math problem.
The teaching model has students using concrete examples such as blocks and dice to explain mathematical concepts. It focuses on creating models and problem solving with pictures before moving on to more abstract concepts.
"That’s how kids learn best anyway," Saginaw Township Community Schools Superintendent Jerry Seese said to The Saginaw News. "I wish I would’ve been taught this way."
The Saginaw Township Community Schools district in Saginaw, Mich. has implemented the program into all five of its elementary schools, and is looking to implement it into its middle schools as well.
This method of teaching math was first created in Singapore in the early 1980s after the country decided to stop importing textbooks from other countries and form their own curriculum that would focus on problem solving.
In 1992, the second edition was created that placed an even stronger focus on problem solving using model drawing as a method for problem solving. Once the Southeast Asian country began leading the world in elementary math education in 1995, other countries began to take notice and import their math books.
Part of the draw of this teaching method is that it slows down the learning process, allowing students to learn at their own pace. This allows the student to build a solid foundation in basic math skills to move on toward more complex problems. It also allows the pace to be accelerated by the fourth and fifth grade as comprehension of complex concepts is increased.
"Our old program, Everyday Math, did not do that," Danielle Santoro, assistant principal of Public School 132 in Brooklyn, N.Y. that introduced Singapore math last year, said to The New York Times. "One day it could be money, the next day it could be time, and you would not get back to those concepts until a week later."
Teachers and principals, who have switched to the Singapore method, are finding that the hands-on method of learning has students picking up on concepts quicker, and increasing their comprehension and problem solving.
For example, Rosalie Carr, a first grade teacher in New Haven, Conn., has found great success as she has implemented the program into her curriculum. Rather than have her students stare at flashcards, or stare at problems in the book, she used blocks to illustrate basic subtraction problems. She then implemented them into word problems, which the students promptly solved.
"They just get it," Carr said to The New Haven Independent. "That would have been head-banging before."
Daniel Duerden is a writer and content editor for 360 Education Solutions