Singapore Math is an approach to teaching mathematics in an objective, meaningful way which focuses on concrete, pictorial and abstract learning more than rote learning of concepts. The subject of this method is taught by lived experiences in classrooms through objects, models, and ideas. Often, learning disabilities come in the way of the academic learning of affected learners.
Dyscalculia is characterized by deficits in counting numbers and the inability to comprehend mathematical concepts, whereas Dyslexia is the inability to read, write or spell correctly. Other difficulties such as functional deficits in memory and visual attention are also associated with these learning disabilities.
Singapore Math can turn out to be an effective method to promote mathematical concepts for children with these difficulties as it disregards meaningless memorization and rehearsal of concepts, and instead focuses on semantic learning and developing a mathematical way of thinking.
Singapore math: A good option for dyscalculics or dyslexics?
Singapore Math is different from usual math in the way teaching and learning is approached and the philosophy they both follow. Singapore Math is more oriented towards children learning to think mathematically than merely rote-learning formulas and replicating questions as done in usual math.
Learning disabilities such as dyscalculia and dyslexia do affect the memory of affected learners which creates many problems in their learning of concepts of math. Deficits in visual sequential memory can make it perplexing for students to memorize tons of formulas and recall them when they are tested. The inability to identify and retain symbols makes it troublesome for children with learning disabilities to learn thoroughly and apply the concept to problems.
Since usual math follows a quite direct method of learning which includes memorizing formulas, referring to solved examples, and then replicating the same in the questions they are presented with, children would have a hard time learning in this way. On the other hand, Singapore math makes it slightly easier for children to learn as it begins with the most basic and engaging methods of learning such as starting with concrete materials such as blocks to make the child think from a quantitative viewpoint.
After this stage, the foundation is slowly built to learn through visual aids and pictures, and only when students progress at these steps, abstract learning involving symbols is introduced. The main approach of Singapore math which does not center around memorization but instead focuses on meaningful knowledge makes it a more efficient way of learning for children with dyscalculia or dyslexia.
Studies done on children with learning disabilities indicate that children showed significant improvement in problem-solving skills including addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division word problems when they were taught through the Singapore Math Method after they had already been taught math usually. It also indicated that children found the steps easy to follow.
Usual math often uses textbooks where problems and questions are given in words with difficult vocabulary and as the level of difficulty of the questions increases, the language is made more confusing to increase the same. In this case, children with deficits in reading and writing may struggle to a great extent. Since textbooks in Singapore Math are based on engaging and visually stimulating materials, it turns out to be an easier source of learning.
Singapore math follows a semantic learning approach, centered around the idea to build a mathematical aptitude for students instead of focusing on academic achievement. This philosophy changes the purpose of learning and makes room for better learning of concepts, theories, and derivations as the teaching is from scratch. It focuses on problem-solving and utilizes the multi-sensory approach. Students taught Singapore math has demonstrated more knowledge of mathematical skills than traditional approaches and it has proved to be a more successful method of teaching math.
Singapore math for children with LD?
Singapore math focuses on three main approaches which are concrete learning, pictorial learning, and abstract learning. These are steps or stages of learning that are sequential and only when one is excelled, the child progresses to the next. This makes Singapore math beneficial for those who face difficulties in learning since it leaves fewer opportunities to go back to previous concepts and relearn them time and again when required for new concepts to be understood.
Since Singapore Math begins the journey of learning through the most basic concepts and lived experiences, children slowly ease into learning and build their concepts smoothly without any pressure to constantly memorize, read and write what is taught in class.
Teachers have reported that Singapore Math aids children’s focus and concentration while enabling them to easily understand mathematical concepts. Class engagement and participation along with comprehension also displayed improvement using Singapore Math methods for students with difficulties in learning. Using games, drills, concrete objects, images, teamwork, and other playful activities makes learning enjoyable for children and even stimulates motivation to learn.
Often, children with learning disabilities struggle to do well in subjects like math not because they do not have the skills to do arithmetic, but because they do not understand what the question is asking them to do. Using the Pictorial learning phase can resolve this issue for them and help them build a better understanding of concepts.
Singapore Math focuses on learning and mastery, not just learning for a test. Following this approach, students do not learn the equation to reach the right answer, they learn how the equation works, even if they are unable to compute the right answer, the focus remains to teach them the concept deeply.
Characteristic features of Singapore math include logical reasoning, focus on number sense, strong visualization, and modeling. Number sense is often impaired in problems like dyscalculia and its emphasis in the curriculum will be beneficial for affected learners.
Singapore math has many benefits and has even achieved success in teaching math to all children efficiently. Given its meaningful learning, problem-solving, and metacognition-based approach, it definitely offers a more effective method of learning math for children with learning disabilities.
Deficits in visual and sequential memory, identification and retention of symbols, reading, and writing make children strive to learn concepts but the Singapore Math Method offers some glide path towards learning Math. The characteristic and methodological benefits of Singapore Math paves way for children to learn math and perform well at it despite their difficulties. Having said that, Singapore Math can be adopted as a more efficient method of teaching math skills and knowledge to children with learning disorders.
Children with learning difficulties such as dyslexia or dyscalculia often struggle with academics and learning concepts due to various deficits in memory, remembering, and language. Singapore math, being a method of objective learning, has proved to be beneficial for aiding children facing these difficulties as it directs and aims towards a deeper knowledge of concepts than merely developing the ability to solve questions. It has demonstrated improvements in problem-solving skills and class engagements due to its features of concrete, pictorial and abstract learning approaches.
- The University of North Carolina at Charlotte ProQuest Dissertations Publishing. (2016). Effects of Singapore model method with explicit instruction on math problem-solving skills of students at risk for or identified with learning disabilities. Preston Angela Irene.
- The impact of Singapore Math on student knowledge and enjoyment in mathematics. (2011b). Blalock, Jenny Taliaferro.
- Addressing Math Comprehension of Children with Attention, Speech, and Language Disabilities: A Case Study on Singapore Math. (2018). Uzhansky, Jane.
An engineer, Maths expert, Online Tutor and animal rights activist. In more than 5+ years of my online teaching experience, I closely worked with many students struggling with dyscalculia and dyslexia. With the years passing, I learned that not much effort being put into the awareness of this learning disorder. Students with dyscalculia often misunderstood for having just a simple math fear. This is still an underresearched and understudied subject. I am also the founder of Smartynote -‘The notepad app for dyslexia’,