Math problems, logic puzzles, riddles; I love them all. People who know me know that I am passionate about teaching students to develop strong problem-solving skills that will serve them throughout their lives. As a classical educator, one of my goals is to guide students in identifying patterns, make connections, and logically reason toward a solution. To see the light of understanding spring out of students’ minds or to hear them explaining the concept to others in the classroom is a joy I get to experience often.
At Covenant, one of our goals is to develop life-long learners. As teachers, we strive to awaken their minds and spirits to the wonders of creation and its established principles. Mathematics is one of the vehicles well-suited for this journey. Two components of vital importance for effective mathematics instruction are dedicated teachers and a strong curriculum that will both delight and challenge young minds.
This year, I was asked to review our lower school mathematics curriculum and evaluate whether it was time for a change. I worked closely with Mrs. Shaffer, Lower School Principal, on this project for several months researching other math curricula for one that is proven effective and employs classical teaching methods, or pedagogy. I am thrilled to share that Covenant has adopted Singapore Math for our lower school for the coming school year 2021-2022.
Singapore Math was developed in the 1980s by a team working to combine effective teacher strategies with teacher training and development. In just a decade, Singapore students were scoring in the highest tier in the international TIMSS test (Trends in International Mathematics and Science). By 2015, those students were at the very top. Many classical schools have already adopted Singapore Math.
So, what is different about this curriculum? It fits in well with the classical model in that it addresses fewer topics per year and allows for deeper understanding and mastery. The program is filled with guided and purposeful questions to spur conversation among the students, thereby incorporating rhetoric skills.
Singapore Math is built around a framework that focuses on more than just memorized algorithms to solve specific types of problems. It works to develop a number sense in the students so that they can approach new problems equipped with problem-solving strategies. It develops their overall thinking skills to solve problems in other areas of study and experience.
One of my favorite comments I received several years ago was from one of our upper school students who had always disliked math because she felt she didn’t understand it and couldn’t do it. Throughout the year, I worked to acknowledge every little victory she had while she was learning in my class. Soon, her attitude began to change. She wanted to sit near my desk while taking her test just to get my “math vibes” to help her think. While we joked about the magic of sitting near me, she began to realize that she was the one understanding. At the end of the year, she said, “You know, Mrs. Artrip, math really isn’t all that bad.” In my heart, that was a victory. I knew she had opened up her mind and uncovered some of the mystery around mathematics.
I do love solving a good mystery. I am excited to see what new wonders unfold as we launch Singapore Math for our own students and teach them to discover and make connections in the world of mathematics.