Saturday, January 31, 2015

Advances in Education: Lessons to Learn from Singapore Maths

Singapore had captured the world's attention when it topped the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) for several years. As such, various studies were conducted by local and international researchers on what could have been the contributing factors to the success of Singapore Mathematics Curriculum.

Early on, the study conducted by Singapore's Ministry of Education identified the contributing factors to be
  • Students attitudes towards mathematics
  • Students' educational aspirations and home resources
  • Perceptions of school climate
  • Availability of school resources
  • Safety in schools
A closer look at the curriculum would indicate that it does not emphasize on content only but also on processes as well as the affective aspects.  

At a time when countries around the world were revisiting and revising their mathematics curriculum, Singapore developed its own framework which is now known as Singapore Mathematics Curriculum Framework (SMCF).

Taken from

A scrutiny of the curriculum further revealed that the SMCF is mathematically logical and the uniform countrywide framework develop in-depth topics at each grade level.   

One notable characteristic of the framework is that in the primary level, there are smaller number of topics and these are sequenced by grade level in a spiral curriculum. The earlier lessons were later revisited at a more advanced level.

One unique aspect of Singapore Maths is its emphasis on affective issues such as students appreciation, interest, confidence and perseverance in learning mathematics. In addition, it also uses the model method extensively and emphasizing problem solving with school children starting at a very young age.  

The textbooks used were also evaluated and the findings were that it provided  multistep problems and concrete visualizations demonstrating the use of abstract mathematical concepts in solving problems from different perspectives.

On the other hand, however good the results of Singapore Maths seem to be, some experts pointed out some limitations. The experts concluded in a report which said that Singapore Maths does not engage students in higher-order thinking skills such as analyzing, reflecting, critiquing, developing, synthesizing and explaining. This therefore does not result to independent learning.

Something to think about though is that the TIMSS is also meant to test higher-order thinking skills among the participants of which Singapore garnered the top place. 

In conclusion, SMCF may not be taken as a curriculum to ace TIMSS, but it has proven its worth in learning maths effectively.