Perhaps you've heard the buzz about children in Singapore producing some of the highest math scores in the world. Where did this originate? In 1995, eighth-graders in the tiny nation of Singapore finished first in the Third International Math and Science Study (TIMSS). In 1999 they repeated the feat. In contrast, the U.S. finished in the middle of the pack both times. What is their secret? Why are children in Singapore performing so well on math tests. I believe there are several factors involved, such as age appropriate material, their effective and thorough training of teachers, and mainly, their method of teaching math.
The Singaporean method follows a sequential approach of concrete, pictorial and finally abstract. For example, today we were talking about which two numbers together equal 8. I drew a green tree on one side of the paper and then a brown tree on the other side of the paper. I gave my son 8 raisins and asked him to place them on the trees. Then I asked, "how many raisins are on the green tree? How many raisins are on the brown tree?" We kept doing this until we exhausted all the possible number combinations. I wrote each number combination on a white board. After that, we looked at his math text book, and it had a picture of eight bunnies. We told each other number stories about the bunnies. For example, three bunnies where above the ground and five bunnies were under ground. After that he did the exercise in his workbook. The exercise went as follows: Mr. Eight knocked down two pins in each set. The numbers on the two pins should make 8. Color them. He's presented with a set of pins that have the numbers 6,3,5,1 and 8. He had to figure out which two made eight. Now remember, he's already seen it with the raisins on the trees and the pictures of the bunnies. Even if he gets it wrong, he quickly corrects himself.
Now, if you have a child with dyslexia, maybe you've been told it is very difficult to teach them by rote memorization. Rote memorization just doesn't stick with them, so a lot of these children struggle to learn their math facts. I was told to teach Big Brother using "Touch Math" which places dots on the numbers to reduce the need for memorization, but I haven't had to resort to that yet, because he is remembering his math facts through this type of teaching. Also, he is enjoying math.
Maybe you're a homeschooling mom and starting to feel some anxiety, because you aren't using Singapore math, or maybe you tried and it didn't work for you. My advice is to stick with what works for your child. But, if you have a struggling child, which is also very visual, you might want to look into Singapore math. It's working for us, and I can't be more pleased.
Over the last month, I've discovered what I presumed to be true. My child has dyslexia. My blog is dedicated to these wonderfully different learners. I marvel at their creativity, out of the box thinking and their infectious need for humor. This is a journey of our discovery process and our journey homeschooling with what works. I hope you will find encouragement along with helpful advice in teaching your right brain learner in this left brain world.