Tag Archives: math wars

Singapore Math

CJ’s school is using it — this already comes as a surprise, since I have heard of it only in the context of “I hate my school’s discovery-based math curriculum and I’m supplementing with Singapore Math” and didn’t know it was actually used in schools.

The second surprise, given that context, is that Singapore Math is not brutally drill-oriented; in fact, I’d call it fairly balanced.  No flashcards, no pages with 100 problems all essentially the same.  Instead, when students are asked what 3×5 is, there’s a 3 x 5 rectangular array of stars drawn next to the problem so that the kid can see what the expression 3 x 5 actually means, not just what it evaluates to.  Similarly, kids are asked to color in 86 boxes in a 10×10 grid (the point being to learn that you can do this by filling in 8 whole columns and then 6 more.)  And with all this, there’s enough practice with basic arithmetic operations to build fluency and speed.  (Educational equity klaxon:  but of course I’ve already done a lot to teach CJ to be fluent and fast in arithmetic operations, because that’s what parents with cultural capital do.  (Subparenthetical: note that thanks to Peli Grietzer I now know the difference between cultural capital and social capital!))

Sometimes people criticize a curriculum for teaching students to do computations mindlessly, but I’m OK with that — mindlessness is a skill you need in life.  The right goal is to be able to do a computation either mindlessly or mindfully, as the situation demands.

Side question:  would Singapore Math have the cachet it does if it weren’t named for a country that’s both authoritarian and East Asian?  What if it were:

  • non-authoritarian, East Asian:  Korea Math?
  • non-East Asian, authoritarian:  Moscow Math?
  • non-East Asian, non-authoritarian:  Israel Math?

 

 

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