Frequently Asked Questions

There are so many after-school math programs around. What makes Singapore Math different?

Singapore Math is hybrid between traditional and new “reform math”. Many after-school programs offer traditional math programs where topics are taught from cover to cover. On the other hand, many school districts are using “reform math”. In “reform math”, topics are introduced conceptually, and students often spend a considerable amount of time investigating these new concepts. Singapore Math, is a bridge between these two approach – introducing topics conceptually, while emphasizing on procedural fluency as well. We believe it is a good program to support effective math learning.

Why Lexington Singapore School?

Lexington Singapore School is founded by Singaporean Kar Hwee Koh and Tze Ping Low, both born and raised in Singapore. Singapore Math is the math that they grew up with. Kar Hwee graduated with Distinction from the Singapore’s National Institute of Education where she taught middle and high school grades before pursuing her Master in Education at Columbia University, Teachers College. In Massachusetts, she has the unique privilege of teaching Singapore Math to students from Grade 1 to Grade 9, and is able to see the challenges of math education through the Grades.

What is the Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract Approach? What is Bar Modeling? How does it help my child?

Kids usually start with concrete manipulatives in their beginning encounters with math. Instead of transitioning from concrete to abstract representation directly, Singapore Math introduces elementary concepts through a Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract (C-P-A) approach. Number bonds where numbers are represented as part-part-whole is taught before students are formally introduced to addition and subtraction. This number bond representation is used repeatedly in mental math strategies for lower elementary grades. Bar modeling is introduced as a bridge to abstract algebraic thinking.

Recently, the Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract approach is given new focus in the United States, where many educators are placing more emphasis on effective math reasoning. In Singapore Math, students are taught to visually represent problems by translating them into bar models. This helps in understanding concepts, developing effective solution strategies, and also serves as a bridge to algebraic thinking in higher math. Students are able to solve many complex word problems with four simple arithmetic operations, without formal instruction in algebra.

Which school districts are using Singapore Math in Massachusetts?

Close to us, elementary public schools in Watertown, Waltham and Reading have replaced their existing math curriculum with Singapore Math-in-Focus. 10 public schools in Cambridge started piloting Singapore Math in Fall 2014. Some public schools in Boston, and other private schools in the Greater Boston area, have also adopted the Singapore Math Middle School curriculum.

Is Singapore Math all about drill and practice and rote learning? I always feel that Singapore’s high performance is the result of an education system that favors memorization over creativity.

This is not exactly true. At the heart of Singapore Math is problem solving. In a recent New York times article, Mr. Schleicher, head of education at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, says

The big success in East Asia is not a success in drilling,” he said, adding that the mathematics test required creativity and problem solving skills based on a deep understanding of mathematical concepts. The New York Times, 2013