Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Primary Curriculum Advances @ NCTM

The three major vendors and the many NSF spinoffs displayed their wares.  For example, the ThinkMath! program seemed relatively balanced between reform and traditional approaches.  Also, it uses the number line as its unifying theme - just as the Mind Research Institute does with its Algebra Readiness.  It should be noted that several vendors stated 'the math wars were over long ago; except in California.  Remember, Everyday Math is the largest selling curriculum in the county.'

A full, rich curriculum from Korea has personalization for problem sets/homework.  After a teacher enters formative assessment data into the software, a customized worksheet is printed for each student.  Students can progress at their own speed.  Numino is an elaborate curriculum in English that should be examined; although the website is 99% in Korean.

However, Singapore Math had the strongest attendance both at its booth and presentations. Furthermore, other Asian countries, particularly South Korea, displayed approaches that varied with conventional (Reform or Traditional) US approaches.  Certainly, the emphasis on mental math (common in Europe also) versus the algorithmic approach of US instruction is the most important difference between the cultures.

In brief, Singapore Math blends Number Sense, Word Problem Models, and Mental Math.  These areas may be separated to form either an extensive intervention or an American spin.  For example, Math With Meaning offers small Word Model texts that can be used for daily instruction for each grade level 1-6.  Also, Jongsoo Bae has developed a very rigorous yearly program for mental math.  Interestingly, Jongsoo Bae has also developed an exceptional program for home workbooks which trigger video instructions with the voice pen.  Combining the products of both vendors with the current prevalence of manipulatives and math software would generate a strong curriculum that would rival Singapore Math and be more accessible to parents.

While the 1995 curriculum has been approved for California, the 2002 revised curriculum has not.  While some claim that the newer curriculum hasn't shown success in TIMSS; it is now available from a major US publisher (Harcourt's Great Source imprint): Math in Focus.  It now includes "non-Singapore" aspects; such as reteaching.

For more info on Singapore Math:  www.singaporemath.com, www.marshallcavendishonline.com, www.singaporemathtraining.com, and www.the-pi-project.com.  Professor Ban-Har Yeap, a Singapore leader, spoke three times at NCTM.

Singapore Math people often make fun of elaborate US manipulatives.  For example, the beautiful Digi-blocks system is compared with beans glued to popsicle sticks poorly.  IMHO Digi-blocks are beautiful things.  They cover 0.01 through 1000 and truly do make magnitudes interesting also.

Game vendors were present.  Arithmo provided newsprint puzzles that reinforce operational and number sense skills and FoxMind's sequence of 3D games stood out.

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