Singapore Math Method - History


Prior to 1980, Singapore imported all of its mathematics textbooks from other nations. Beginning in 1980, however, Singapore began to take a new approach to mathematics instruction. Instead of importing its mathematics textbooks, the Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore (CDIS) was established. One charge of CDIS was to develop primary and secondary textbooks. At the same time, the Ministry of Education, the centralized education authority in the country, set new goals for mathematics education. These goals emphasized a focus on problem solving and on heuristic model drawing. The CDIS incorporated these goals into the textbooks, and in 1982 the first Singapore math program, Primary Mathematics 1-6, was published. In 1992, a second edition was made available. The second edition revisions included an even stronger focus on problem solving and on using model drawing as a strategy to problem solve.

The country continued to develop its mathematics program. Further revisions included:

  • Creating a tighter content focus of the mathematics curricula following a study to review the scope and sequence in 1998
  • Privatizing the production of the primary level mathematics textbooks in 2001, with the hope that collaboration among textbook publishers would lead to quality textbooks at more affordable prices
  • Placing an even greater focus on developing mathematical concepts and fostering mathematical problem solving in 2006 revisions

Following Singapore’s curricular and instructional initiatives, dramatic improvements in math proficiency for Singapore students on international assessments were seen. In 1984, Singapore’s students were placed 16th out of 26 nations in the Second International Science Study (SISS). By 1995, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) ranked Singapore’s students first among participating nations. The 2007 results also showed Singapore as a top-performing nation.

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