Dash: That’s not the way you are supposed to do it, Dad. They want us to do it this way.
Bob: I don’t know that way. Why would they change math? Math is math. MATH IS MATH!
If you saw Incredibles 2 this summer, then perhaps you got a good laugh out of those lines. I know I did.
Are you wondering why math is changing and what is this talk of Singapore strategies?
Wonder is key. I’m sad to say that many of us lost our sense of wonder for math sometime after first grade. Math quickly became a subject full of rules to follow but not to be understood. Algorithms to learn that would get you the correct answer if we could just remember them. If you weren’t a natural mathematician, then math lost its zeal quickly.
Developing a sense of wonder is what a classical school longs to instill in every student, for every subject. This is possible in math by deepening the experience and changing the goal. We must focus on creating a rich math environment that builds number sense and a deep understanding of mathematical concepts, not simply memorization or following “the steps” to solving a problem. The goal is to allow students to struggle with problem solving long enough for them to develop enough grit to see them through it. When we allow students to discover truth for themselves, then they will own it. The following is a telling quote from Dr. Yeap Ban Har, author, and contributor to several Singapore style curriculum.
We are not teaching math. We are teaching thinking through the medium of math.
So why all this talk of Singapore strategies anyway? Well, the small island country of Singapore has gotten a lot of attention over the years for its top ranking in international student math achievement. The methods developed in Singapore have inspired math curriculum changes across our country and around the world.
There is a good chance your child will bring home some math work this year with an approach with which you are not familiar. When this happens, ask them questions. Questioning develops thinking and understanding. There are so many ways to look at a problem. Ask your child: what they know, what patterns do they see, can they draw a picture, have they worked through a similar problem in class? Encourage them to ask you questions. Begin a math conversation. Enjoy their thinking process and your sense of wonder in math might soon return.
Our goal as classical educators is to develop thinkers and problem solvers, not calculators.