Why is Singapore Math beneficial for your child?
Being a student in Singapore nowadays is not an easy feat. Before entering university, children must attend school for about 10 years—with six years of primary education required by the Ministry of Education as per the Compulsory Education of CE Act. Enacted in 2003, CE mandates children aged seven years old to attend a four-year foundation stage (Primary 1 to Primary 4) and a two-year orientation stage (Primary 5 to Primary 6) that would comprise six years of formal primary schooling before they turn 15. After which they would be assigned to different secondary tracks according to their Primary School Leaving Exams or PSLE scores and attend four or five years of secondary school. Once they complete secondary school and acquire scores that would qualify them to pre-university education, they can finally enter college to secure for themselves a brighter future by pursuing a bachelor’s degree.
And so it is easy to assume that Singapore students have a challenging mission—as young as they are—as they strive towards completing formal education. For parents, the task is equally daunting: not only can they be penalized for not sending their children to school as mandated by the Compulsory Education Act; they can also “lose out” to other parents who provide their children better scholastic opportunities, and in turn, make their children miss out on a quality life as adults. Singapore parents simply want better for their children—not only as citizens of Singapore but as citizens of the world. And as the number of dual-income couples increases, one can say that Singaporeans are no strangers to this.
Photo from The Straits Times
Despite the burden and the fear of “losing out,” Singapore students and parents have clearly accepted the challenge of not only finishing school but excelling in it. Perhaps it is the pride of being one of the most progressive economy in Asia and in the world—with Singapore surpassing Hong Kong and toppling the world power that is USA in terms of economic competitiveness according to IMD’s 2019 World Competitiveness Ranking—that makes Singaporeans, even if they are just children, work hard and up their level of competitiveness. Or it may be due to the fact that Singapore is a known world leader and innovator when it comes to education, especially in math. Continually coming in as the top nation in the Program for International Student Assessment or PISA’s worldwide rankings of scholastic performance—defeating Hong Kong, Japan, and Canada—Singapore students constantly prove their superior skills to other similar-aged students in the world. It also holds top scores in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), a global achievement test in science and math for Primary 4 and Secondary 2 students that educators and education policy-makers recognize worldwide. And let’s not forget: ranking among China, South Korea, and Russia as one of the countries in the world with the best education system, Singapore is the only nation with a mathematics education named after it. Yes, math is a universal concept that is taught universally, but we don’t hear maths education in UK being called British Math, or math education in China as China Math, and yet, the world knows of Singapore Math. This is an overwhelming proof that Singapore does not only have quality math education but that it is the best—which is why Singapore Math has been adapted to more than 25 countries, including South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Chile, Panama, France, USA, Pakistan, India, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Photo from Winona Daily News
It is no wonder that Singapore parents find an effective and efficient math education beneficial for their children: it does not only make them competitive citizens of Singapore, but progressive citizens of the world. In order for parents to give the best for their children in terms of math education, they make use of all available resources. And in this day and age, online ones usually provide free and easier access that allows mobility for both parents and students. Below are a few types of math learning resources that are available online—all of which are portable and allows for access anytime, anywhere, via computer, tablet, or mobile device—for free. We also listed a few pros and cons per resource type to help parents and students make an informed decision, as well as a few sample sites. And so if you ever come across the question, “Where should I start with online math resources?” look no further, because we have the answers here for you.
Types of Online Math Resources
Electronic articles may mean two things: first, a journal article which is a scholarly article published in a research journal or an academic publication; second, a website article which is a story or a piece of writing written by an individual, usually an expert on the field, to share information or persuade readers about a particular topic, and then published on a website or a blog site. Though somewhat different, these two share some common advantages and disadvantages.
Articles are a sort of specific answer when you’re looking for something. Assume that you searched for “parallelogram” on your search engine, either on your web browser or on the search engine of an e-library. The “answers” that would pop up would usually be specific articles on parallelograms, in response to the search word/s or keyword/s that you typed in. This makes articles a quick source of information—they provide specific, and usually short, information so you do not have to go through an entire volume of study or an entire book.
• Provides a number of choices
It is the nature of the Internet to provide users with a multitude of choices, and with online math articles, it is the same. Whether articles published on blogs, websites, or in scholarly journals, there is an abundance of math articles on the Internet.
• Possibility of inaccuracy
This may be the case at times, particularly with web articles or blog articles that are made solely with the intent of catching the attention of a target market or persuading readers.
• Too many choices
When faced with too many choices, some users, especially younger ones like students, tend to get overwhelmed. This may be because they are unsure where to start, given the numerous choices in front of them. In turn, this may lead to distraction, wherein students would just resort to less-overwhelming activities online; or procrastination, wherein they would just put off the activity and do it a later time.
• Math Goodies – This math website offers articles on a variety of topics in mathematics education that are authored by distinguished educators from around the world.
• The Conversation – The Conversation is a website that offers both academic and opinion articles on a wide range of subjects, from arts and culture to economics to science and technology to health and environment. For mathematics, its articles are authored by experts such as doctorate degree holders, professors and lecturers from the University of Florida and the Australian National University.
Internet forums, also called message boards or discussion boards, are online conversations shared by Internet users about a specific “thread” or topic via posted messages. They are a venue for anyone to ask very specific questions and get first-hand information from users who have experienced a situation or have come across information that answers the specific questions.
• Provides direct answers
Perhaps it is because of the richness of information found on the Internet that makes sorting and filtering very specific information a challenge, yet the rise of online forums presents a solution to that. In online forums, specific questions earn specific answer without much need to sort or filter information. Communication is streamlined in the sense that a user can directly respond to a user, while other users can still see the content and respond as well.
• Enables collaboration
As opposed to online articles wherein you acquire information but without being allowed to respond to what you have just read, forums allow an active exchange of thoughts and ideas between users. This can lead to collective learning and collaboration as specific information is made available to users present in the forum, and those users in turn add information by sharing what they know or have learned through first-hand experience.
• May have unrelated/inappropriate content
Because forums have the nature of being open to everyone, most, if not all, require content moderation. This is to make sure that no one creates unrelated, inappropriate, or illegal posts or that if anyone does, the posts will be checked or taken down to ensure a safe space for exchanging thoughts and ideas.
• Answers are not always guaranteed
There are tons of thousands of forums out there, and given the rate with which they are growing, one needs to have a base or community of users to get discussions going.
• Free Math Help – Free Math Help is an online site that offers help through forums for first grade to eight grade students. It has tens of thousands of registered users that have posted almost 200,000 posts on their message board about a variety of math topics such as algebra, geometry, calculus, trigonometry, and statistics.
• Mathematics Stack Exchange – This is a question and answer site for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields. It also has a specific site that caters to more professional-level math called MathOverflow which is a question and answer site for professional mathematicians.
3. Audio (Podcasts)
Podcasts are digital audio files of discussions or conversations between a host and speaker, usually an expert on a specific field, or in some cases, a recording of a monologue of a person sharing his or her expertise, ideas, or opinions on a certain topic. It can be accessed on the Internet by uploading and are made available to users by downloading to a computer or mobile device.
• Helps auditory learners
For children who learn faster and better by listening to information delivered verbally—called “auditory learners” or those who have a dominant auditory learning style—a podcast is a useful tool. This is because aural learners respond well to and retain instructions and information that are conveyed in a spoken manner.
• Allows for multitasking
Because podcasts can simply be played and listened to in the background, it allows listeners to multitask. This means that a student can work on his share of household chores while listening to a math lecture, or prepare his things for school while listening to a math-related discussion.
An average podcast is about 45 minutes long, and so it would require some time to finish an entire math lecture or discussion. This may pose a challenge, especially to younger students since they have limited attention span. The lack of visual stimulation may also cause them to younger learners to get easily distracted.
• Information Overload
Since information flows faster in a spoken format, there is a tendency for students to get overwhelmed with information. Although ideally consumed or listened to in one sitting, some individuals prefer to listen to podcasts in chunks to avoid this.
• Khan Academy Singapore Math – This non-profit educational organization that aims to create online tools to help educate students provides primary school students with a series of podcasts specifically made to discuss Singapore Math.
• Math Ed Podcast – With over 2,000 subscribers, this podcast features interviews about mathematics education by Samuel Otten from the University of Missouri.
With the rise of the popular video-sharing YouTube, netizens are no strangers to the use of videos to engage an audience, share, and acquire new information. Video-based learning makes use of tutorials, explainers, animated texts and infographics, interactive videos, and recorded video lectures to aid in learning.
Compared to written content and spoken text, videos are a more effective tool in getting the attention of learners and engaging them. This is because it addresses both visual and auditory learning styles in conveying information. Hence, it is more likely to be persuasive, thus more easily retained by learners, than simply reading or listening.
• Minimizes information overload
Because most e-learning videos tend to chop up information and show step-by-step instructions that can be easily remembered and followed by users or learners, the tendency to be overwhelmed by new information is minimized in video-based learning.
• Video storage
To get high-quality videos, one must have big storage space in his device as videos with the best content and quality tend to require bigger space than other downloadable e-learning tools such as e-books or audio books.
• Individualistic learning
To parents who want to teach their children to work collaboratively or engage socially with same-aged peers, video-based learning may be an obstacle since it may create a sense of isolation in the student once he gets immersed or used to learning through videos.
• Free Math Videos – A website started by a former student who struggled with and was baffled by math, Free Math Videos offers to work with students to help solve the hardest math problems.
• Math Game Time – This website believes in the idea that not everything can be learned by students from their textbooks, and so they provide educational videos help fill in such learning gaps. Their videos vary according to the child’s grade level and the subject areas that he needs to learn or improve on.
Electronic books or e-books are books made available in a digital format and are seen as an alternative to printed books. Just like its printed version, an e-book contains texts, images, or both, as well as a book cover.
Photo from Rappler.com
Unlike traditional printed books that can be very heavy and bulky—hence, hard to bring along or carry around—e-books don’t weigh anything at all. Except perhaps for storage space on your device, e-books are very convenient learning materials that you may bring with you anytime, anywhere.
Since e-books have font adjustment features and night reading options, it can cater to different kinds of readers and learners. Whether you’re comfortable reading in larger fonts or in smaller ones, or if you prefer to read in the night-time, you can customize your e-book settings according to your needs.
• Difficult for those with poor eyesight
If you have problems with your eyesight, you might want to lessen the chances of eyestrain from reading or looking for extended hours at the screens of electronic device. If this is the case, e-books won’t be the best option for you.
• Constant need to charge device
Reading for long hours can drain the battery of your device, and so when using e-books, it is best to always bring your device charger and do it in a place where there is a source of electricity. Otherwise, it would be useless to have countless math e-books in your device and be unable to use it because of an empty battery.
• American Institute of Mathematics or AIM – AIM offers a variety of math e-books—mostly authored by Japanese and American math experts—that have been assessed to meet the evaluation standards set by the AIM editorial board.
• Dimensions Math – This website offers e-books, electronic worksheets and teacher’s guides on Singapore math. They also make e-books and electronic workbooks available to students by logging into the website.
6. Virtual Manipulatives
Virtual manipulatives are visual representations of abstract mathematical concepts. They are patterned after concrete manipulatives such as coins, fraction bars, and solid figures. The idea of virtual manipulatives is a fairly new technology in math education, and so no studies about its advantages and disadvantages have come about yet. However, a few noteworthy collections of virtual manipulatives have become available online.
7. Digital Library
Perhaps the oldest among the technologies listed here, digital libraries provides online access to databases of articles, electronic books or e-books, electronic journals, magazines, periodicals, newspapers, and similar kinds of publication that can include text and photos or images. Some digital libraries also have audio and video clippings, or full-length versions of these and other such digital formats that aid in learning. Digital libraries are seen as a result of the shifting of traditional print or the digitization of print media into online resources that can be available for access for anyone anywhere in the world. And since almost all educational institutions have already installed e-library databases, researching about math has greatly improved in terms of speed and ease of access.
• 24/7 access
Online math libraries allow students or learners to get a hold of information anytime, anywhere, from wherever they are in the globe. And unlike traditional libraries wherein a printed resource may only be used by one person at a time, online libraries allow a number of students to access a particular resource at the same time.
• Access to a wide range of subjects and topics
Since mathematics is a really broad and complex subject with a lot of branches, with topics and subtopics under those branches, digital libraries provide extensive resources to those looking to learn and master it. Resources found on e-libraries range from century-old texts that have been digitized, to the latest research findings about the subject.
• Possibility of inaccuracy
It is the nature of e-libraries to store huge amounts of data, and with this comes the need to update regularly. There comes instances wherein information needs to be updated and yet the system takes time to do so as there is a lot of information stored in the library database. This causes inaccuracy that may mislead students or learners accessing information.
Virtual libraries are far different from traditional libraries in that it immerses students in the online research experience that can lead to them feeling isolated from their immediate surroundings. Also, there is a tendency for it to be unbearable for long hours of use because of the extended exposure of the eyes to the glare of computer screens.
1. The Electronic Library of Mathematics (ELibM) – Established in 1996, the Electronic Library of Mathematics is the longest-running and largest open access repository in mathematics. It contains journals, article collections, monographs, and other math resources in electronic form with free access to almost all materials.
2. Cornell University Mathematics Library – From the Ivy League research university from New York comes a digital math library with a myriad of reliable math resources, including The Cornell University Library Historical Mathematics Monographs collection which is open to the general public.
What suits my child best?
But even with this comprehensive list of online math resources, deciding what’s best for your child is still a challenge. And so its best that you pay close attention to his math needs to assess what kind of math resource he would best benefit from. For starters, you may base it on his grade level as most resources indicate what grade level the resource is made for. Or, you may choose to address his specific math difficulties and target challenging subject areas. Whatever it may be, the best solution would always include a supportive math community that your child can trust. That is why here at iMath, we encourage an active live community. Here, learners benefit from a community that provides real-time math assistance through the iMath wall, a message board wherein learners can freely ask math-related questions and get direct response from iMath’s very own math experts and enthusiasts.
The fact that it is an active live community assures both parents and students that information shared with them is the latest based on Singapore’s Ministry of Education. What’s more, parents can contribute to iMath’s supportive math community by posting their advices and tips to other parents as well. And so, here at iMath, our students benefit from a safe space of learning, mastering, and gaining confidence in math. It just goes to show that if you’re missing out on iMath, then you’re truly missing out.
This post was written by Louise Adrianne Lopez.