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Teaching Singapore Math at Home - Part 1

Concrete Foundations

The past several years have brought online and at-home learning into regular learning schedules for more families than ever before. And around the world, Singapore Math is growing as a top choice for parents to bring home. As a Singapore Math tutoring school, we at Mentorhood think this is a fantastic opportunity for students to learn to think mathematically with our favourite method.

Singapore Math turns math students into strategic problem solvers and teaches students recognizable mathematical patterns that even apply to their perceptions of the world around them. We favour Singapore Math because of its unique ability to take students step-by-step from concrete concepts they are familiar with to abstract ideas and symbolic representation with operations and numbers. We love Singapore Math!

We also strongly believe in the hands-on, personal approach that supercharges Singapore Math instruction—and that’s why we’re called Mentorhood. We believe in small class sizes, intimate discussions, and a deep amount of listening that unlocks a child’s understanding.

And we absolutely love it when parents want to be involved in the process, help their students along when they get stuck, or simply bring Singapore Math home and into their own learning plans.

We’ll be going over several Singapore Math teaching methods in order to coach the coaches—that’s you, parents! You’ll be able to understand the approach to take with your students at home in learning Singapore Math and setting them up on a concrete foundation. We’ll begin with the most basic teaching methods for the youngest children just getting familiar with math.

We introduce mathematical concepts first with concrete objects. We then progress to visualized pictorial representations and finally connect this to abstract symbols.

First Things First: Recognizing and Counting with a Concrete Approach

As children learn to interact with the world around them, they depend greatly on what their senses can experience: what they can see, hold, hear, or touch.

With our youngest children, we like to illustrate mathematical concepts with concrete tools that engage their senses. We use a lot of small objects, movement, and counting with fingers when we’re first getting started.

Learning to Recognize

Like learning a new language, it’s important that small children develop the ability to recognize numbers and understand the quantities they represent. As adults, we often take for granted that our numerical representations of numbers are simply abstract symbols to which we’ve assigned meaning. (This is the same with letters and punctuation, by the way, and any other type of written communication.)

Students can then demonstrate their understanding of quantities by successfully being able to repeat or mimic the amounts. Counting is an extension of this skill, being able to order quantities according to rank. We often rely on fingers for the smallest numbers, and we eventually build on this understanding to teach basic arithmetic.

We find it’s best to expose students to lots of iterations of the same numbers so that they can get used to a number’s symbolic representation and its quantity. Showing the same number in words, numbers, and pictures is key to building a comfortable level of recognition. Singapore Math is all about developing a deep, multi-perspective understanding, and this approach shows up in the most elementary of concepts.

When teaching the number “three”, for instance, show pictures of three objects and ask how many objects there are. Ask your child to hold up the correct number of fingers. Show them the word “t-h-r-e-e”, and get them to learn to read it out.

Next, you can mix up all sorts of numbers, pictures, and words and have them pick out which ones belong with which. Adding an element of randomization will help children store all these numbers and symbols in their long-term recall memory.

Making it Fun

The possibilities for gamification are endless. By introducing racing, running, toy play, or object sorting, we can engage more of a child’s senses and therefore ingrain the lesson deeper into their minds.

Students can run to the correct numbers posted around the room. We can play bingo, and students can look for the matching number on their game board. We can take turns bowling and see how many bowling pins are left standing. Students can race to count out the correct number of small objects or sort them into bigger and smaller piles.

All this provides ample opportunity to introduce the very first tools of arithmetic: determining which quantities are more or less, taking amounts away, and adding amounts in. Next month, we’ll discuss how important it is for students to learn to group numbers to answer their very first arithmetic questions.

Welcome Aboard

Welcome to the team, parents—the Singapore Math team! We’re excited to have you on board and we look forward to helping you coach your little ones.

We’re happy to come alongside your learner in their learning journey. And if you want to do more from home, you can check out our ever-growing library of games, now on YouTube!

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If you’d like to join an exclusive group of parents and get personal coaching on how you can be a better Singapore Math tutor at home, send us a message.

In the meantime, if there are specific topics you’re having trouble teaching and you’d like us to cover them, let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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