Exponential Growth with Singapore Math

Lower School · September 30, 2021

When it comes to mathematics, do you have a fixed, mixed, or growth mindset? Students often approach their math classes with many preconceptions about their abilities before they even begin. ISB’s Math Department works diligently to help students shift their mindset; they support students in moving away from dichotomous thinking that they either are or aren’t a “math person” because, truthfully, everyone is a “math person.” Being open to solving problems and having the skills to think creatively are exactly what it takes to become a mathematical expert. “Making mistakes and seeing that as part of the process of learning is key,” Mathematics Coordinator Brenna DiCola shares. “We focus on nurturing the growth mindset, and the Singapore Math framework helps us do this.”

Now in its second full year of implementation at ISB, the Singapore Math framework helps students believe in their own capabilities as learners. Singapore Math’s approach is founded upon research-based educational strategies that center around problem solving and visualization. For example, 3rd Grade students recently created their own number lines so they could visualize the concept of rounding. The teacher was able to differentiate the activity to best meet students’ needs: one group practiced rounding in the hundreds, while the other group set forth on the challenge of rounding in the thousands. Students were able to see where the numbers were relative to the nearest five and ten values, and this visualization was key to helping students understand the process of rounding in a deeper way.

Singapore Math is also unique in that materials are available in all languages used for math instruction at ISB – Spanish, French, and English. ISB’s Lower School uses the Math in Focus curriculum for Spanish and English classes and Maths: La méthode de Singapour for French classes. These curriculums are aligned with the Singapore Math philosophy and also meet the French, Spanish, and NY State educational standards. Most importantly, they provide the framework for teachers and students to focus on attitude, metacognition, and the process of exploring and testing new ideas while acquiring key mathematical skills and concepts. 

“No matter what the task is at hand, if you feel like you can’t, you never will. That’s why it’s so important for us as educators to instill confidence, openness, and excitement around the process of learning. Through math, students are able to develop the tools they need to be successful in any future challenge. The answer is not the only important discovery, but rather it is also about students being able to collaborate and see that there are many ways to get the same result.” -Brenna DiCola, Mathematics Coordinator

In 1st Grade Spanish, students recently used cubes as manipulatives and ten frames to learn about decenas and visualize groups of ten.

The 2nd Graders explored variation and visualization through an examination of numerical values in single digits, tens, and hundreds. Students looked at numbers and found different ways to represent them visually using their own drawings of dots, rectangles, and designs. Through this exercise, they were able to connect the pictorial with the abstract. As they looked at their peers’ drawings, they also realized there are many ways to represent the same number. 

As part of the Explorers unit of inquiry, 3rd Graders investigated numbers within the context of measurement inspired by maps from around the world. They began making maps of their own classrooms and examined the geometric shapes and angles found in their learning spaces. The 3rd Graders began with an activity in the yard, where they worked to measure different shapes using a tape measure, string, and square grids. This activity required students to use their higher-order thinking skills beyond memorization as they experimented with measurement.

Through Singapore Math, students are presented with choices in their learning. They are encouraged to try different methods outside of their comfort zone to examine mathematical concepts. Emphasis is placed on being able to explain the process, instead of jumping straight to the answer. They are able to connect concrete, pictorial, and abstract concepts together and understand visualization and variation. As our students explore the world of mathematics, they are growing into adventurous problem solvers!