Friday, October 1, 2010

Math problems of the week: 4th grade Investigations vs. Singapore Math

I. An assignment from the 4th grade Investigations curriculum, given in the third week of school:

II. An assignment from a similar point in the 4th grade Singapore Math curriculum:

III. Extra Credit:

Today's front page New York Times article on the rise of Singapore Math consults a Scarsdale math coach on what he views as the chief advantage of Singapore Math over American math:
Mr. Jackson said that [Singapore Math] students moved through a three-step learning process: concrete, pictorial, abstract. American math programs, he said, typically skip the middle step and lose students when making the jump from concrete (chips) to abstract (questions).
Does Mr Jackson have it right?


gasstationwithoutpumps said...

Mr. Jackson has greatly over-simplified. Adding pictures to the Investigations text would not rescue it.

Barry Garelick said...

The New York Times based its article on the opinions of the teachers in the school. These teachers are determined to teach Singapore in a US manner; i.e., groups, discussion, open-ended problems. Singapore's structure is so good it will work in spite of idiots. Those who subscribe to student-centered, inquiry-based constructs seem to glom on to Singapore's use of bar models as if this is the be-all end-all of the program. There are other aspects of Singapore's program that contribute to effective learnng, namely, the logical sequence of topics, their presentation, and the building on such topics. Bar modeling links the part-whole relationships that are started in kindergarten and which extend all the way through 6th grade. The teacher at the featured school seem to believe, like many, that if you draw the right kind of pictures, you can solve any kind of math problem. Pictures are a help, to be sure, but they can only do so much. A problem like "Mr. Smith spends $600 on some items and has spent 3/5 of his weekly salary; how much did he have at first?" lends itself to a bar model approach. A problem like "How many 3/5 mile intervals are there in a 600 mile stretch of road" does not, though the method of solution is the same for both:

600 x 5/3 = 1,000.

FMA said...

I thought that Everyday Math was really bad. Investigations seems to be far worse and even more removed from the Math used in the real world than Everyday Math.