International PISA and TIMSS math and science studies: What really matters?

Lexington Singapore School is offering a free 1-hour parent workshop, focusing on bar modeling and how you can use them to help your kids in complex problem solving. Competition questions that we use in Lexington Singapore School will be used as examples, and handouts on simple techniques will also be given. This is a parent-only free workshop. 



Session 1: 1/12 Thursday <To register:>

Session 2: 1/13 Friday <To register:>

Time: 7pm to 8pm

Venue: Lexington Singapore School (807 Massachusetts Ave Lexington MA02420)

We hope to see you there!



Here is a recent report on the the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) study, conducted every 3 years, on 15 year-old students around the world.

Students in Singapore have done well in the PISA study, as well as the TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) released one week earlier. While the PISA focuses on math, science and reading for 15 year-old students, the TIMSS studies the math and science achievement for 4th and 8th graders. The TIMSS is conducted every 4 years.

Singapore topped the ranking for both 4th grade Math and Science and 8th grade Math and Science in TIMSS 2015. Singapore was also placed in the top rank for PISA study for math, science and reading for 15 year-old students.

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2015 PISA Study


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2015 TIMSS study


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Percentage of students able to apply and reason in complex problem situations


The rankings provide a reference, but it is more important to look at its background. There has been a lot of reports on Singapore’s high scores but it has not always been so and the media does not talk much about it. Singapore performed average in math scores in the 1980s, and since then, there has been a change in focus in curriculum, placing greater emphasis on mathematical concepts and ability to apply them to higher-order problem solving situations. One distinct feature of the Singapore Math curriculum has been the focus of visualization, and the use of bar modeling as one of the problem solving heuristics. Children with no knowledge of algebra can use the model method as a visual guide to apply and reason in complex algebraic-type problem situations. Many international educators attribute this as one of the factors contributing to the achievement.

In our program at Lexington Singapore School, we follow the same Singapore approach; focusing on both basic conceptual understanding and problem solving. Each week, students Grade 2 and higher are given two or more non-routine problems. We want to make these problems accessible to ALL our students, not just students who can add or multiply quickly.  We want our students to know that there is more than one way to solve a problem, and through logic reasoning and visualization, even our lower grades students can succeed in algebraic type word problem too. There is, of course, a strong correlation between feeling successful in math and achieving in math. The better you feel, the better you are. We need to see these problems at their eye level to help them succeed.

Here is a video on the TIMSS. You can watch it here:
Here is a video on the PISA. You can watch it here:

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