A Wise Math Decision in Wentzville
The Wentzville School District is adopting Singapore Math, the (English-based) math curriculum behind Singapore’s spectacular performance on international math exams.
Comments to the Post-Dispatch article bring up some criticisms of the move. Here they are, with my responses:
1. Singapore Math is a fuzzy “new math” fad. Wrong. Singapore Math teaches that there is one right answer, emphasizes correct recall of arithmetic, and covers topics similar to those in U.S. textbooks. It’s innovative in its use of diagrams and problem-solving techniques, and the word problems are extra challenging. Singapore would not do so well on international assessments if its students sat on pillows and meditated about rectangles, or whatever they do in “new math” classes.
2. Wentzville is spending an inordinate amount of money on this program, when the old curriculum worked just fine. Singapore Math is less expensive than other programs out there. Workbooks sell for less than $10 each. I could go on and on about the cost-effectiveness of this curriculum, but I’d sound like one of those Christmas ads for Target. In an increasingly diverse education market, people consider school districts, charter schools, private schools, virtual schools, and homeschooling when deciding where they’ll live and how they’ll educate their children. Districts are going to have to try different methods and occasionally invest in new materials so that they can compete.
3. If students leave Wentzville and encounter another curriculum, they’ll be confused. It seems to be students from the United States, not Singapore, who are confused when the countries are evaluated against each other. The possibility that a student may one day encounter an inferior textbook is no reason to forgo a good curriculum. Besides, school districts across the country are going to use different materials; no math program would satisfy this objection.
4. Singapore Math is copyrighted, so parents won’t be able to help their kids with homework. Does whoever wrote this comment think other math books are all in the public domain? As I mentioned above, Singapore Math is cheap. Parents could buy the materials for a few dollars, if they want to have them on hand. But that probably won’t be necessary, because the Singapore Math website offers a free help forum. Besides, Wentzville is holding meetings to teach Singapore methods to parents and get their input.
I applaud Wentzville’s excellent choice.