Math mastery

New math program introduced in 2017 is proving beneficial for Academy students in lower to middle school.

The Grosse Pointe Academy’s switch to Singapore math from “everyday math” to offer a more traditional approach to teaching mathematics included classes taught to students in lower through middle school.

At the start of the 2017-18 school year, The Grosse Pointe Academy introduced the innovative Singapore math program into its lower school through middle school curriculum. Now well into its second year of implementation, school administrators report that students as well as faculty members are embracing the rigorous curriculum.

“Students across the board are very excited about the math program,” said Didi DeBoer, GPA’s assistant head of school for grades 4-8. “The curriculum is challenging, but extremely engaging. During the second year, we see a marked improvement in student mastery of math facts and an overall understanding of the concepts presented. It’s been impressive to see the student growth in mathematics as a result of Singapore Math.”

While Singapore Math originated in the country of Singapore, the term “Singapore math” was actually coined in the United States to help describe this new approach of learning and mastering fewer concepts that uses much greater detail than typical math classes. This is accomplished, said DeBoer, by having students use a basic three-step learning process, which is defined by concrete, pictorial and abstract steps.

“In the concrete step, students engage in hands-on learning experiences using concrete objects such as blocks, dice or paper clips,” she said. “This is followed by drawing pictorial representations of mathematical concepts and then students solve mathematical problems in an abstract way by using numbers and symbols.”

Jennifer Kendall, the Academy’s assistant head of school for early and lower school education and the director of curriculum, added that even though it may sound counterintuitive, the Academy switched to Singapore math from “everyday math” to offer a more traditional approach to teaching mathematics.

Julie Anderson, who teaches grades 6 through 8 at the Academy, includes Singapore math in her daily curriculum.

“It’s actually a more rigorous curriculum,” she said. “Also, we focus on the mastery of concepts that Singapore math provides so that we are not teaching a ‘mile wide and an inch deep,’ but rather our students are getting a much deeper understanding of math, even in the lower grades.”

GPA math teachers also welcomed the new program and are handling the change well.

“We had excellent professional development before we launched Singapore Math so everyone on staff was well-prepared for the change,” said DeBoer. “The teachers love it and are excited to see the tremendous growth in their students. In the middle school, we see a significant change in the depth of understanding that students have in all the concepts that are presented in the earlier years.”

DeBoer also said she’s looking forward to seeing how Academy graduates do at the next level in their math curriculum.

“Having a program that is as rigorous as Singapore Math is definitely helping students as they prepare for high school math courses and the necessary standardized tests that come in high school,” she said. “In fact, 46 percent of our middle school students are taking high school math courses this year at The Grosse Pointe Academy. As we continue to utilize Singapore Math, I look for students to continue to improve with regard to their mastery of math concepts, setting them up for more advanced course work when they reach high school and beyond.”

Holly Willson, who teaches fifth grade at GPA, goes over math equations with her students last fall.