Math Teaches Us How to Solve Any Problem

Math Teaches Us How to Solve Any Problem

In Singapore Math, children are asked to make meaning of the math, and the focus is not simply on getting the correct answer, but also to examine why various approaches work. The focus is on mastery, and the best way to master skills is to focus on fewer concepts over longer periods of time. This slower but deeper pace allows our students by the upper elementary years to grasp complex concepts much more quickly, and in the long run, we end up saving valuable instruction time when concepts don’t need to be retaught frequently. The idea behind Singapore Math and the mastery approach is not about collecting facts, it’s ultimately about thinking like a mathematician. “The mindset of thinking mathematically impacts how students solve complex problems in other disciplines and life in general,” says Ron Seagal, Seven Arrows’ Math Instruction Specialist.

Singapore Math follows a three-step approach in virtually every lesson: it begins with the concrete, then the pictorial, and finally the abstract. Traditional math instruction at its best jumps from concrete to abstract, and at its worst straight to the abstract. However, when children engage the material through multiple approaches that emphasize the tactile and visual as much as the traditional strategies, they are far better able to meaningfully master the material. Furthermore, the visualization step is truly essential not only for the purposes of reinforcement for visual learners but also because children are asked to show what they are learning on paper rather than taking a newly learned concept straight to the abstract. This critical visual process solidifies children’s understanding as they create concrete pictures from abstract ideas.

While the rigor, depth, and retention is far more sound in Singapore Math, students seem to be having much more fun with it, once again showing that a true love of learning is the best way to help students excel academically. Our data consistently illustrates that our students gain a year or more of aptitude due to this deeper, learning-for-mastery approach.

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