Research-Based Singapore Math at St. Anne’s Episcopal School

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In an age when many questions can be answered with the aid of an electronic device, what do our children need to learn in school?

Singapore Math Consultant Sarah Schaefer engages first graders in talking about different ways they can solve the same problem.

In 2016 St. Anne’s Episcopal School adopted the research-based Singapore Math approach to preparing its students for a rapidly changing world.  Solving math problems is just one of the benefits; students, parents, and teachers are energized by this innovative approach, which asks students to understand the “why” before the “how.”

“Finding the answer is just one small piece of the puzzle,” Lower School Head Valerie White said. “What is more important is the ability to think critically and understand the “why” behind the solution. When we press kids to think more deeply and demonstrate an understanding of the concept or skill we are extending their learning to create true mastery.”

St. Anne’s Episcopal School introduced Singapore Math in Kindergarten through 2nd Grade in the fall of 2016 and will expand the program through 4th Grade next year.

Singapore math is a teaching method and curriculum developed and used in Singapore, a nation that consistently ranks at the top of international assessments of student achievement in math.  One of the defining features of Singapore math is visualization. The concrete, pictorial, and abstract method underscores real-world application of math.

The Singapore Math approach emphasizes depth and process over memorization and drill work. It reinforces the life lesson that there is more than one way to solve a problem.  Because children work collaboratively with others to problem solve, Singapore Math also teaches children to communicate, to listen, and to respect their peers.  These are all skills that will help children navigate and build positive relationships in life.

St. Anne’s invested in Singapore Math resources and teacher training for faculty in Preschool through Fourth Grade and formally initiated the program in Kindergarten through Second Grade last year with the help of a grant from the Longwood Foundation.  Teachers, parents, and students tell us what a difference they see this year as a result of adopting Singapore Math:

“What has been happening in the classroom this year is really exciting!  Because we used the Singapore Math approach to teach place value, our students have a deeper understanding of numbers and how they relate to each other,” said first-grade teacher Melissa Meier.  “My first graders this year have a stronger number sense, which is the foundation of all mathematics.”

John Burk, Director of Academic Innovation, Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science at St. Andrew’s School observed how the Singapore Math approach lays the foundation for success in high school.  “As a high school math and science teacher, I see daily that the most successful students are the ones who develop a flexible approach to problem-solving, are willing to seek out more than one way to solve a problem, and embrace the creative exploration that is integral to math and science,” Burk said.  “As a kindergarten parent, I am thrilled that my daughter is learning to approach math in a playful and creative way that is helping her develop a joyful approach to learning math, grounded in a deep understanding that will serve throughout her education.”

St. Anne’s second graders shared the following reflections about math this year:

“I have learned that there are different ways to solve problems and arrive at answers.”

“I am not as worried about taking risks or making mistakes. I know it helps my brain to grow.”

“I like seeing how math can be USED, like in measuring length and mass.”

“I am better at math and more confident.”

“I have learned to not give up so quickly.”

St. Anne’s Episcopal School first grader Brian Walsh of Chestertown (left) uses Singapore Math principles to find many answers to a math question with fellow student Wyeth from Dover.

Located in Middletown, Del., St. Anne’s Episcopal School focuses on academic excellence and spiritual growth in a small, family-oriented and diverse community. St. Anne’s is a co-ed independent day school for children in Preschool (age 3) through Grade 8. Founded by visionary educators from St. Andrew’s School in 2002, our academic program prepares students for honors course work in the finest area high schools through its commitment to intellectual, spiritual, physical, social, and artistic growth and character development.

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