What Am I Missing Here, Dept.

I was going to put this in the category of articles I never finished reading, but I did read it, and re-read the following paragraph several times in a vain effort for it to make sense:

“Today, much of the public and private school curriculum is based on what is known as “Singapore Math” and, specifically, the so-called “number sense” — which makes physical associations between numbers and, for instance, toys that a child handles while counting. And while Singapore Math is a great starting point, it may not be enough in the forms currently taught in the schools. To put it plainly, our students need more rigorous training. After all, students from Mainland China rule the Math departments at the top U.S. universities today, not Singaporeans, and definitely not Americans.”

First of all I’m not aware that the techniques used in Singapore’s math programs are the dominant form of math education in the US. Yes, some programs borrow the bar diagram technique for solving problems and use it occasionally, and then point to it as evidence that “Look, we’re using Singapore’s techniques.  But most textbooks do not use Singapore’s full techniques, at least not in any consistent fashion. And does she really think that the statement that China rules the math departments in US universities but not Singapore stands as proof that Singapore’s methods are inferior to China’s?  Singapore’s population is a lot less than China’s as is the percentage of people who emigrate from there to the US. Might that be a more likely reason than concluding that Singapore’s math program is not effective?

I asked the author this question in an email.  She responded:

Having taught and observed several top U.S. Math programs, I can tell
you with certainty that I am yet to encounter one Singaporean. And, you
know, sample size is not an issue here. Either Singaporean Math is not
enough to get the kids into the top U.S. Math programs, or it kills the
kids’ desire to study Math — neither is a good outcome. Furthermore, I’ve
lived in Singapore and it never struck me as Math Capital of the world.

Clearly she knows better than some useless TIMSS exam. And clearly she never visited homeschoolers, or even California.

What am I missing here?

2 thoughts on “What Am I Missing Here, Dept.

  1. Clueless.
    In the US, the goal is to survive K-8 an get into a proper AP Calculus track ending in AP Calculus BC. While in high school, you do the AMC test every year and are on the math team or in the math club. Having gone through this with my son and looked at a lot of what is going on, that was all I saw. Singapore Math is only in K-6 and while it’s good, it’s neither necessary or sufficient.

    When you get to applying for college, nobody ever asks what you had for K-6 math. They ask for GPA in AP Calculus, SAT I and II (Math), your AMC scores and anything else you’ve done in math. By then, Singapore math is a non-issue. While I might argue about AMC math and a few other things, there is nothing else that comes close to preparing the top math students in the world, and my son now sits next to them in his college abstract math classes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like to try to figure out where people are coming from, and I still don’t understand her. The article promotes a weekly one-hour out-of-school program where “kids have a great time when engaged in math-based craft projects and board games.” OK, does it work and what does work mean if you raise the issue of creating kids who are successful in the required math classes for the career they want? And how do you know what that career will be in K-6? How do you keep all doors open for all kids in those grades?

    She is also concerned about creating students that can compete with those from China (not Singapore), but never defines and calibrates any specific problem. This is not a technical article, but it fails in that regard too. At best, she promotes a weekly craft and game approach to math.

    I’m not sure what her hang-up is with Singapore Math and how it’s not enough when she doesn’t say what enough is. And she doesn’t seem to notice or care that CCSS now defines K-6 as a NO-STEM zone officially. And she doesn’t seem to understand the problems of full academic inclusion (age tracking) when she talks about plateaus of learning, or rather it’s opposite, individual acceleration of content and skills, not just enrichment (crafts and games as an excuse for no acceleration).


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