Singapore’s education system is widely lauded as one of the best in the world, particularly in the realms of maths and science. In fact, our maths curriculum even has its own term – Singapore maths – which was coined in the United States to describe how maths is taught in many Singaporean classrooms.
This reputation has also resulted in a misconception that Singapore maths is challenging. A notion undoubtedly strengthened by Singaporeans’ love affair with maths tuition. From primary to A Level maths tuition, there is no shortage of classes of varying grade levels for parents to choose from.
However, despite its current prestigious status, Singapore’s maths curriculum did not start out this way. In fact, in the 1980s, Singapore’s maths standard was considered mediocre at best. It was only after the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) decision to revamp the maths curriculum in the middle of the 1980s that led to the dramatic improvement in maths proficiency among Singapore students.
The goal of the revamp was to move away from rote learning and place a greater emphasis on actual problem-solving. And considering our students regularly dominate in maths in every tested grade level, we would say that MOE’s effort has been hugely successful.
If you have always been fascinated by why Singapore consistently rank among the top nations in maths, wonder no more! Let us trace the history and features of Singapore maths and share how your child can excel at the subject – with a little help from maths tuition lessons.
Part 2 – WHY SINGAPORE CONSISTENTLY RANK AMONG THE TOP NATIONS IN MATHS
2.1 An overview and history of Singapore maths
Were you surprised to learn there is a specific term for our maths curriculum? After all, to many of us who grew up within Singapore’s education system, it was simply regular maths to us. But in other countries, this term is used to describe our nation’s novel approach to teaching students to learn and master mathematical concepts in greater detail.
Before MOE’s revamp of the maths curriculum, Singapore used to import its mathematics textbooks from other countries, often leading to middling academic results. In 1981, the Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore (CDIS) began developing and distributing its own maths textbook and curriculum as part of MOE’s revamp.
Subsequently, dramatic improvements in maths proficiency among Singaporean students on international assessments were observed following the change in curriculum, affirming MOE’s decision to forge ahead with the changes.
In the late 1990s, it decided to open the elementary school textbook market to private companies, like Marshall Cavendish, to publish and market their own Primary Mathematics textbooks. This practice has continued to this day, with various new iterations being used in both schools and maths tuition centres in Singapore alike.
2.2 How Singapore maths has led to improvements in maths proficiency among Singaporean students
The rapid improvement made by Singaporean students in maths has not gone unnoticed by other nations, with multiple countries adopting the maths curriculum taught in our schools and maths tuition centres.
However, have you wondered what makes Singapore maths stand out? To the extent that other countries seek to implement our maths curriculum within their own education systems? Well, it mainly boils down to the way maths is taught in Singapore. Let us share the things that Singapore does differently from other nations and how it has led to massive improvements in our students’ maths proficiency.
1. A focus on foundational learning
Compared to the traditional maths curriculum found in other countries, Singapore maths focuses on fewer topics but covers them in greater detail. The lessons conducted in schools and maths tuition centres emphasise a deep mastery of the subject through foundational learning, with each grade level seen as a building block in the student’s learning journey.
Instead of drilling and memorising multiple maths skills, the curriculum aims to get students to focus on learning and mastering a limited number of concepts per school year. The hope is that this learning method will translate to better academic performance because the students have a deeper understanding of the material.
This approach also discourages students from relying on memorisation alone to excel in their exams. To master the subject, students need to truly understand the material, thus ensuring they are less likely to forget about the fundamental concepts when they advance to the next grade level.
2. Cultivating a growth mindset
A growth mindset – as defined by renowned psychologist Carol Dweck – refers to the idea that intelligence is not merely an inherent trait but can be developed and honed through dedication and education. And MOE is a firm believer in cultivating this mindset in students through its various curricula.
The belief is that students are more likely to excel in challenging subjects like O Level maths when they have a mindset that they can succeed if they keep trying. This is why teachers aim to encourage a positive learning attitude in students at an early age, so they will learn to persevere even when confronted with challenging subjects.
At Learning Voyage, we are a stout supporter in cultivating a growth mindset in our students. We understand that making mistakes is a crucial part of the learning process. As such, we encourage our students to learn from their mistakes during their secondary maths tuition classes. This way, they can avoid repeating the same error during their maths exams.
3. Strong emphasis on visual learning
Students often struggle with word problems designed to test their knowledge of complicated maths concepts. To combat this issue, Singapore’s maths curriculum places a strong emphasis on model drawings to help students visually represent a word problem.
If you have flipped through your child’s primary maths tuition homework, you would have come across various arithmetic questions that involve the use of bar modelling to solve word problems. By visualising the word problem with simple diagrams, students can better understand what the question is conveying and thus how to solve the query.
4. Mental maths as a core principle
While scientific calculators have long been deemed an essential tool in secondary maths – both O and N Level maths – and JC maths, primary school students, with the exception of Primary 5 and 6, are not afforded the use of such devices.
This decision aims to encourage students to be adept at mental maths. By learning how to do maths calculations in their heads, students can better develop number sense and place value, helping them to solve maths questions quickly and accurately without the aid of an external tool.
2.3 Benefits of Singapore maths
The maths curriculum adopted by public schools and maths tuition centres in Singapore has undoubtedly led to tremendous success for our nation. And as more countries seek to integrate this curriculum into their educational system, we thought it might be worth taking a look at how Singapore maths has benefitted our students in the long term.
Benefit #1: Helps to build a solid maths foundation
Educators often emphasise the importance of learning new skills at a young age, as kids typically absorb information at a quicker pace because they have more neurons actively creating new connections than adults do. This is why Singapore’s maths curriculum places a strong focus on helping students establish a sturdy foundation for their maths concepts at an early age.
In various primary schools and primary maths tuition classes in Singapore, the teacher aims to ensure that their students understand the various maths concepts thoroughly. By building a solid maths foundation, students can move forward with learning new concepts with minimal need to re-learn what they were taught previously.
Benefit #2: Concepts are taught in sequential order
Due to the way Singapore’s maths curriculum is structured, it is much easier for students to master new topics. This is because new concepts are introduced sequentially, building on the prior knowledge that students already possess. This process makes it easier for students to connect the dots, thereby quickening the learning process.
However, it is vital to remember that everyone learns at a different pace. While some students can pick up new maths concepts immediately, others may struggle initially and require supplementary work, like maths tuition, to keep pace with the syllabus.
Benefit #3: Focus on deep mastery of maths concepts
In contrast to other countries’ educational systems, fewer modules are covered in primary school maths in Singapore for each school year. Instead, the priority is for students to learn and understand the topics in greater depth to ensure they face fewer issues when they progress to the next grade level.
In fact, it is essential for students to master their foundation topics if they wish to excel in their JC maths classes. This is because the syllabuses found in JC maths can often be traced back to what students learn in primary and secondary school, especially in their A maths classes.
Hence, it is crucial for your child to focus on their foundation knowledge in primary and secondary school. If you notice your child is struggling with the concepts they are learning in school, you should enrol your child in A maths tuition early to ensure they can keep pace with the syllabus.
Benefit #4: Use of visual aids to improve students’ comprehension skills
According to a study conducted by the Social Science Research Network, 65% of the population are visual learners. This means most students learn better when they can pair concepts with meaningful images.
However, the majority of maths questions are structured as word problems, making it challenging for some students to parse the questions and identify the critical information to help them solve those maths problems.
This is where the incorporation of visual aids, such as bar models and graphs, can help students to improve their understanding and comprehension of the exam questions, thereby allowing them to connect the various dots to solve the problem.
PART 3 – HOW TO EXCEL IN MATHS
3.1 Tips on how to help your child excel in maths
It is natural for parents to have their children’s best interests at heart, including the desire to see their kids excel at school. However, there is no denying specific subjects, like maths, can be challenging to master. This is why many parents seek to enrol their children in maths tuition classes so that their kids won’t fall behind their peers.
However, beyond sending your child for maths tuition lessons, which are immensely beneficial, there are various things you can do to help your child excel in maths. We have compiled several practical tips to assist you in this regard.
Tip #1: Ensure your child starts with the basics
As we have established earlier, our nation’s maths curriculum places a great emphasis on a strong foundation, with subsequent maths topics building on what your child previously learned at their school and maths tuition classes.
Therefore, it is crucial for your child to establish their fundamentals and get them right before progressing to the more challenging topics. Furthermore, this is not something that can be done within a short span of time, so it is imperative for your child to begin their revisions early.
Tip #2: Encourage your child to clarify any doubts with their teachers
Some children hesitate to clarify their doubts in class because they are afraid of appearing silly for failing to grasp the concepts that are being taught in class. However, this concern is detrimental since they are unable to obtain the clarification they need to understand the maths lesson.
As a parent, you should always encourage your child to clarify any doubts with their teachers. Let them know that this is a perfectly normal thing to do in class and that their maths teacher will appreciate their effort. Even if their question may appear silly at first glance, it may help to spark further discussions about the newly introduced concepts.
Alternatively, if your child is more reserved and feels uncomfortable speaking out in front of a large group setting, you can encourage them to seek help from their maths tutor instead. Furthermore, maths tuition classes typically have a smaller class size, making it easier for the tutor to explain and clarify any doubts.
Tip #3: Make sure your child completes their maths homework
The homework assigned to your child by their school teacher and maths tutor is one of the best ways for them to learn the concepts of mathematics. This is because these assignments often pertain to the topics that are currently being taught in class.
When your child completes their maths tuition homework diligently, they gain a better understanding of what their tutor is teaching, ensuring the time spent in their tuition class is productive.
Tip #4: Encourage your child to practise their maths skills regularly
Maths is more than a subject; it is an activity. Similar to the concept of riding a bicycle, regular practice ensures your child can commit the maths concept that they have learned to memory. During their maths exams, they will then be able to recall these concepts instantaneously.
It is best to ensure your child has a wide variety of maths problems to tackle. Attempting all sorts of maths problems, and not just the questions your child is comfortable with, enables your child to feel more confident in tackling the numerous maths problems that appear in an exam.
If your child is revising for their O Level maths paper, the best revision material they can work with is the 10-year series. While there will be variations to the topics and questions that appear on the O Level maths paper, the core curriculum is typically similar. By working on the 10-year series, your child will have a better gauge of how prepared they are for their maths exams.
Tip #5: Allocate a designated space for your child’s revision
A study has found that a child’s learning environment plays a crucial factor in their academic success. Students who study in a conducive environment are shown to be more engaged and motivated. Conversely, those studying in a poor learning environment filled with distractions find it more challenging to stay focused and absorb information.
As such, it is imperative for your child to have a dedicated study environment where they can focus on their revision, away from all distractions. Ensure the study area is well-lit and stocked with the necessary tools your child requires so that they don’t have to waste time finding the stationery they need.
3.2 How maths tuition can help students who are struggling with the subject
Maths tuition is increasingly seen as a norm rather than a luxury given the ever-evolving maths curriculum in Singapore. The mathematics concepts we learned in the past are regularly updated to fit a modern context, making it a challenge for many parents to mentor their children in maths, especially when they advance to the higher grade levels.
As such, numerous parents opt to enrol their children in popular maths tuition centres in Singapore to ensure their kids can keep pace with the syllabus. But there are additional benefits to maths tuition beyond keeping up with the curriculum. Read on to learn more about these advantages.
Benefit #1: Smaller class size
Private maths tutors typically oversee a smaller class size. This flexibility allows them to tailor the lessons and activities to suit your child’s learning style. Your child will receive an individualised learning experience they may not get in a larger classroom setting in school.
Benefit #2: Improves your child’s self-esteem and confidence
Struggling in maths can impact your child’s self-esteem and confidence. When they cannot cope with the subject, their interest is likely to wane. Furthermore, the knock to their confidence may lead to a downward spiral of lowering grades in other classes, which is not ideal.
However, a reliable maths tuition centre can provide your child with the resources they need to excel in school. With proper guidance, your child will begin to see a gradual improvement in their maths results. This helps rebuild their confidence, empowering them to tackle more challenging maths questions.
Benefit #3: Identify any gaps in your child’s maths knowledge
The large study groups common in a school environment makes it challenging for teachers to provide every student with the support they need. As such, there may be gaps in your child’s maths knowledge, which can hamper their ability to pick up on new concepts efficiently.
This is where a dependable maths tutor can step in to help your child with the topics they are less familiar with. Furthermore, the tutor can provide customised feedback tailored to your child’s learning style during their maths tuition lessons so that your child can better understand the material.
Benefit #4: Impart helpful study tips
Maths tutors regularly stay up-to-date on the latest syllabus so that they can guide their students on how to tackle maths problems in the most effective and streamlined way.
By sharing these methods with their students during their maths tuition classes, what students once viewed as a challenging concept is now much easier for them to comprehend. Students can then incorporate what they learn into their revisions, ensuring they are better prepared for their exams.
Benefit #5: Provide constructive feedback and encouragement
It may sound ludicrous, but failure can sometimes be seen as a positive. The crucial thing is to recognise the mistakes made to ensure they are not repeated the next time. This is where a reliable maths tutor can step in to provide constructive feedback and help your child identify their errors so that they can learn from them.
Additionally, any tutor worth their salt understands the importance of mixing constructive criticism with a healthy dose of encouragement so that students won’t feel discouraged or overwhelmed with maths. This way, learning becomes a fun activity for your child rather than a chore.
PART 4 – CONCLUSION
There is no denying the significant leaps Singapore’s education system has made in the realm of maths since the revamp in the 1980s. The change was so successful that the United States had coined a term – Singapore maths – to describe our maths syllabus.
While the misconception about Singapore maths being challenging may be exaggerated, it is vital to understand that every student learns at their own pace. So if your child is struggling with maths, fret not! They might just require additional guidance on the subject.
At Learning Voyage, we provide a wide range of maths tuition classes – from primary maths tuition to JC maths tuition. Our maths tutors possess years of experience guiding students in the field of maths, so you can rest easy knowing we have your child’s best interest in mind.
If you are interested to learn more about our class schedule and rates, do not hesitate to contact our tuition centre at Hougang to find out more!