Common Core State Standards and Singapore Math: A Perfect Fit

By Robyn Silbey

The world-class Singapore Math approach to mathematics instruction is a proven way to teach math so students understand and remember it, and raise student achievement. But will bringing Singapore Math strategies into your classrooms and school also help you meet the Common Core State Standards? A comparison of the Singapore Math framework with the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice will demonstrate that it will.

Singapore Math: 5 Key Aspects of Learning

Students in Singapore have consistently been high performers, ranking first in the world in mathematics on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Singapore’s math framework identifies five key aspects of learning as essential:

  • Skills, such as numerical calculation, algebraic manipulation, spatial visualization, data analysis, measurement, use of mathematical tools, and estimation.
  • Attitudes regarding math, including including beliefs, interest, appreciation, confidence, and perseverance.
  • Numerical, algebraic, geometrical, statistical, probabilistic, and analytical concepts.
  • Metacognition or the monitoring of one’s own thinking and self-regulation of learning.
  • Processes or reasoning, communication, and connections; thinking skills and heuristics, and applications and modeling.

Common Core State Standards: 8 Mathematical Practices

The developers of the Common Core State Standards were required to internationally benchmark the standards. Drawing on the best practices from around the world, they looked at the high-performing nation of Singapore to identify features that could be applied to schools in the United States. The centerpiece of the CCSS are the Standards for Mathematical Practice. These practices describe “processes and proficiencies” that maximize students’ deep and lasting conceptual understanding in mathematics:

  • Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  • Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  • Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  • Model with mathematics.
  • Use appropriate tools strategically.
  • Use appropriate tools strategically.
  • Look for and make use of structure.
  • Look for and express regularity.

A Perfect Fit

What can be learned from a comparison of the Singapore Math framework and the Standards for Mathematical Practice? It should be clear that the CCSS are well-aligned to Singapore Math. Both set similar learning expectations in terms of rigor, coherence, and focus. Both address key content that prepares students for success beyond high school. Both reflect a meaningful structure and a logical progression of content and skills over the years. Both focus on conceptual understanding, procedural skill, and problem-solving with an emphasis on application and modeling.

It should also be clear that bar modeling—the crown jewel of Singapore math—is a problem-solving strategy that addresses all eight of the Mathematical Practices. You don’t need to fully adopt Singapore Math to reap the benefits of bar modeling. It can work in any curriculum. But if you do choose to roll out Singapore Math and align it to the CCSS, the process must be managed effectively.

Implementing Singapore Math and CCSS

There are proven, documented processes for successfully implementing Singapore Math strategies in your building or district. These include demonstration lessons that hold teachers accountable, co-teaching, and weekly planning. Just as important is a school focus on math along with customized support as student, staff, and district needs change with each new year.

Do your own comparison of Singapore Math and CCSS. SDE offers a webinar that goes into more depth and offers tips and strategies for successfully implementing Singapore Math and the CCSS in your school or district. Check out What Administrators and Principals Need to Know—Singapore Math and the Common Core... A Perfect Fit! by math expert and teacher Robyn Silbey.

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