Thursday, February 17, 2011


I just finished talking with some teachers about math. It was an interesting conversation based mostly on the current topic of "Singapore Math". I am always amazed at how many teachers believe that bar modeling is Singapore Math. I have talked about this in a blog before, and multiple times in inservices, but feel obligated to restate some basic information about Singapore Mathematics.

The basis of true Singapore Mathematics is problem solving. Real world problem solving. I agree. This does include bar modeling. But it also includes mental math, number bonds, going from concrete to pictorial to abstract thinking, as well as geometry, algebra, and basic concepts including NUMBER SENSE.

Although well intentioned, you can not change only one part of your math program and expect it to change how students think about math. You can't teach bar modeling only and expect your students to become proficient overnight. If it was that easy to do, I would tell you to do it. I am more concerned with student understanding than with selling products. However, it just isn't true. Students have to start out with a firm understanding of basic number sense. Using a program that teaches students about numbers is necessary. Teaching students and ensuring mastery is necessary to produce forward thinkers that are going to be successful in math.

1 comment:

  1. Just a thought that crosses my mind:

    The line method is to the bar method what the soroban is to the Chinese abacus.

    The soroban is the Japanese abacus, which uses four beads as compared to the Chinese abacus, which uses five beads for computation. This means that the soroban effectively promotes "less is more".

    Similarly, in most cases, a line instead of a bar or box would do the job in solving many word problems; in fact, the bar model method may be seen as a bastardization of the line method, which is commonly used among elementary students in mainland China.

    Sometimes, we're so used to a particular method or technique that we don't stop and think what its weaknesses are. Interestingly, even in lower grades, students in China are exposed to the line method to solve a number of non-routine questions.

    Be it the bar or line modeling, we need to leverage the strengths of either one to solve problems effectively and faster.

    K C Yan
    @MathPlus and @Zero_Math