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A Trip to Singapore

Updated: Feb 21

There may be no more polarizing class subject than that of Mathematics. You rarely hear a student say “it’s fine” or “it’s OK” – generally a student loves Math or he hates it.

And sooner or later those students who hate it give up on Math altogether. To those students Math becomes a fearsome foreign language, the dialect of some unkind country where they don’t belong.

But those students likely hadn’t been to Singapore. It’s true: Somehow, an extended trip to Singapore converts the Math hater into a Math lover. That fearsome foreign language called Math begins to make sense.

Mrs. Pino, our Academy's Math Teacher, is one such Math convert. She loathed Math – but then she traveled to Singapore.

“Our Math Curriculum – Singapore Math – gets at the why behind mathematics,” says Mrs. Pino. “Like many of us, I grew up learning mostly formulas and plug-in algorithms. To be clear, formulas and algorithims are important and have their place, but to love and deeply know Math, we need to understand why an answer is what it is. In Singapore Math, students learn not only to solve complex problems, but to confidently articulate how they solved those problems.”

That is the first reason for which Whitefish Christian Academy teaches Singapore Math: It gets at the heart of Mathematics. Mastery is its aim.

The how behind that mastery approach may be explained through the Academy student’s mathematical journey, Kindergarten – 8th grade, which runs as follows:

·       Elementary (K-3): At this stage students work with math in tangible ways; they use what are called “manipulatives” – counting blocks, dominoes, tiles, etc – to both feel and visualize the math fundamentals of addition, subtraction and multiplication.

·       Upper Elementary (4-5): This is a pictoral stage in which “pictures” – bar graphs, line graphs, models – are used to see and explain more challenging math problems.

·       Middle School (6-8): Here, once students have grasped the fundamentals through manipulatives and pictures, students begin to employ algorithms. Students learn the essential mathematical formulas, but with the in-depth knowledge of how they work.

If you’d like to see an example in action, you can find one here. There you’ll notice how even complex word problems might be broken down into digestable – even visual – pieces, and how with those manageable pieces any given problem is suddenly more approachable.

Yet while it’s all well and good for us to think highly of our own Math curriculum, it’s important, too, to know we’re not alone. For some time now Singapore has ranked first globally (here and here) in mathematical education. Mastery in math is quantifiable; it generates top scores in standardized tests and other respected educational markers. At WCA, we employ a time-tested program that produces world-class results.

There is a final and important reason for which we so highly value Singapore Math. That reason relates back to that idea of language, of which Galileo once said this:

Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe.”

Mastery and world-class results are two key impetuses behind our math program. Yet to speak and understand and love a language written by God Himself – that is the lasting, most important aim of our Singapore Math program at Whitefish Christian Academy.


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