We just attended the Singapore Math In-Depth Summit in Scottsdale, AZ, organized by SMARTTraining, LLC. It was a very rewarding experience for us – we met a lot of fellow educators (thanks for our readers who came to say hi!) and also learned a lot from the seminars.
One of the most memorable seminars was the session on “Modeled Lesson” by Dr Yeap Ban Har. In his session, Dr Yeap points out the 4 critical questions teachers should be asking themselves before we begin teaching a topic (Dufour, 2004):
- What do I want the students to learn?
- How can I tell if they have learned the topic?
- What should I do if they don’t?
- What should I do if they already know the topic?
However, before we can ask these questions, we need to know the students’ current understanding. Dr Yeap invited 10 fourth grade students on stage to conduct a live lesson with him. Though it must be nerve-wrecking for the kids to attend a live lesson on stage with a hundred teachers watching, they did a wonderful job participating. Using fraction multiplication as the example, Dr Yeap demonstrated what we can do during a pre-topic session to understand what the students already know about the topic.
Using 3/4 x 12 as an example, Dr Yeap first observed that procedural fluency is not an issue with the class before him – all the students were able to give 9 as the correct answer. He then went on to test conceptual understanding by asking the students to come up with stories to explain two different forms of the question:
- (3/4) x 12
- (3×12) / 4
Most of the students were able to come up with stories for the first, but not the second scenario. Then, Dr Yeap proceeded to test pattern understanding by asking:
- 1/4 x 8/10 = ? (ans: 2/10)
- 1/4 x 8/19 = ? (ans: 2/19)
Throughout the exercises, the focus is on data-collection. Mistakes were not directly addressed, and the emphasis is on encouraging class participation.
With a more accurate picture of the students’ understanding, teachers can better plan the lessons to achieve the required objectives within the allocated time.
We got a lot out of this seminar. Very often teachers focused on “what” to teach and “how” to conduct the lessons, and neglected the very important step of checking what the students already know and don’t know before beginning the topic.
We also attended Dr Richard Bisk‘s sessions on “Math In Focus Implementation” and “Connecting Singapore Math to the Common Core”. Dr Bisk is the consulting author for Math In Focus so we were very excited to meet him in person.
We were also excited to meet Linda West and Dr Leslie Arceneaux who are both with SMARTTraining Now, the organizer of this Singapore Math In-Depth Summit. We’re thrilled to know that they are both fans of our Singapore Math Calendar!