Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Using the right math program does work

Some Fayette County schools started using the ‘Singapore Math’ program in 2009. Initially, there was fear that this rigorous math program would cause declines in scores.

Well, flash forward to 2011. Now, a lot more of the school district’s elementary schools want ‘in.’

It seems that Singapore is starting to really shine – with Kentucky kids.

According to a Jim Warren report in the Herald-Leader, several Fayette schools using Singapore have made dramatic progress, including some nice improvements for minority populations.

Even the New York Times knows Singapore is a program to watch. The Times reports Singapore Math is being used in schools from inner city New York to the exclusive Sidwell Friends School in Washington that President Obama’s daughters attend.

The news about Singapore Math is no secret to us. We wrote about the success of this program in our KERA @ 20 reports, “KERA (1990-2010): What have we learned?” and “KERA@20,” both on line here.

Still, it’s nice to see more evidence that Singapore works, especially since that includes working with Kentucky students, especially our kids of color.

So, here are some bigger questions.

The nation of Singapore has been shining in international mathematics testing for years. As we ask in our KERA @ 20 report, why is it that only a handful of Kentucky schools are currently using it instead of ‘fuzzier’ math programs that confuse kids and parents?

How much evidence has to be put in front of our educators before they finally accept the obvious?

Part of the answer may be found in the New York Times article.

Teachers have to know some math to teach Singapore.

However, in Kentucky elementary school teachers can get a degree and be certified to teach after taking only one, trivial math course titled “elementary math.” It is taught below the level of college algebra. That probably isn’t good enough preparation to really teach mathematics, even to elementary school students. Just maybe, teachers fighting Singapore may think their own mathematics skills are inadequate to teach this highly successful program. If so, it’s time for someone to realize the kids deserve better. They deserve a high quality program like Singapore, which works in inner city schools, schools right here in Kentucky and the president’s daughters’ school, too.

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