Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Pals Are Here: Singapore Method Curriculum

Better late than never...

I forgot to share with you that one of my best finds during this year's Manila International Book Fair (MIBF) is the discovery of the local distributor of the Singapore textbook, My Pals Are Here. My kids use these textbooks for their Singapore Math and Science curriculum.

I just want to share the good news to all the parents whose kids are learning the Singapore method. The local distributor is selling the complementary books to the My Pals Are Here textbooks. There are exercise books available for all levels of students

a. My Pals Are Here - Reteach. The exercises in this book are carefully structured to provide learners with more time and opportunities to learn.

b. My Pals Are Here - Practice. The exercises offered here are opportunities to revise and extend concepts and skills.

c. My Pals Are Here - Enrichment. The exercises in this book are carefully designed to challenge and motivate fast learners.

The latest edition costs a little more than P400.00. But if you do not mind buying the old edition (read: published 2005 or earlier) like I did, you get to save 50%. I bought up all the enrichment books I could get my hands on. Yes, on all levels. It was a little bit like hoarding. :) Roughly, I got two books for the price of one. Bargain, di ba?

When their school shifted to using the Singapore Method a couple of years ago, I found myself complaining, along with numerous other parents, that the curriculum seemed too easy that it was like going down a grade level. Or at least, that was how it looked like if you look at the textbooks alone. I remembered the first time I browsed through the math book, shocked that her grade level curriculum covered addition and subtraction only up to 20, when my girl can easily add unto the hundred value already. "adding and subtracting up to 20? Easy-peasy!" Little did I know that the analytical part of problem solving would require some re-learning of math concepts. Students are required to get creative as mathematical equations are worked with together with the aid of the bar model method.

This technique of model building is a visual way of picturing a situation. Instead of forming simultaneous equations and solving for the variables, model building involves using blocks or boxes to solve the problem. The power of using models, if learned with proper guidance, often allow grade school kids to be able to solve algebraic word problems. If models can be drawn to show the situation, the solution becomes clearer, sometimes even obvious.

At that time, I also did not understand the importance on the concentrated focus on using number bonds for addition and subtraction. I had no concept at all on what the number bonds were for, except maybe to confuse the child and exasperate the parent/tutor. Because we all grew up doing carry over 1 and borrow 1 for addition and subtraction of two digit numbers with regrouping, right?

Just a few weeks ago, I attended a Singapore Math seminar, offered by my daughters' school this time, and here it was explained to me that mastery of the number bonds at the early grade level facilitates mental math in the higher grade levels. We were also taught how to solve multi-solution algebraic problems using the bar model method.

It is then that I have come to appreciate the wonders of the Singapore Math and Science curriculum. Teaching them the Singapore method has always been testy for me. But not anymore.

Singapore Math is a balance between drill and creative problem solving. Students are encouraged to move along to more abstract math concepts in a more rational way and, depending on the student's pace, more quickly. I also found out for myself as I tutored my kids that the Singapore approach encourages greater problem solving skills and creative thinking. In fact, algebra problems are a breeze when done the Singapore method way.

In the same way, Singapore Science aims to stimulate young minds, cultivate their interest, and spark their curiosity in finding out about the things around them. It adopts a hands-on and inquiry-based approach to the learning of Science, including experiments, worksheets and projects and research on the Internet for information.

Are you asleep already? It's ok, you can wake up now... I am done with the post. :)