Dimensions Math: Lingering in the Past

Dimensions Math may boast a cosmetic update, but its educational content remains over a decade behind current standards in Singapore Math curriculum.
January 17, 2024 117 0 3

Navigating Dimensions Math: Decisions Unraveled

In the dynamic realm of educational resources, Singapore Dimensions Math emerged as a noteworthy attempt to blend the familiar with the contemporary. However, beneath its revamped facade lies a tale of strategic decisions, changing preferences, and a curriculum that, despite appearances, holds ties to a bygone era.

Fateful Decision

In around 2013-14, the Dimensions publisher faced a pivotal choice: embrace the future by aligning with updates in the forward-looking 2012 Singapore syllabus or anchor in the past by emulating the proven yet dated Primary Mathematics textbooks from the 1980-90s. Unfortunately, the choice to resist the modernization efforts and instead emulate the past turned Dimensions Math into an unwitting time capsule.  Although its appearance suggests a modern makeover, this curriculum remains tethered to an outdated framework.

Why Align to the Old Singapore Syllabus?

Despite its antiquity, the Primary Mathematics program enjoyed popularity among homeschooling parents due to its simplicity and success. The allure of minimal preparation coupled with a track record of effectiveness led many to favor the familiar. The decision to align Dimensions Math with its predecessor catered to this preference, offering a bridge between the old and the ostensibly new.

Why Create a New Dimensions Math Curriculum?

The decline in school sales of the Primary Mathematics series prompted the creation of Dimensions Math. The need for a facelift was apparent, with schools expressing dissatisfaction with outdated materials lacking in color, activities, and modern online tools.

To address this, Dimensions Math curriculum retained the structure of Primary Mathematics and introduced cosmetic enhancements to cater to schools. While the old structure is conducive to dimensions math for homeschool, the emphasis on surface-level improvements left a void, as the curriculum failed to align with Singapore's broader recommendations for a balanced and engaging learning experience.

Adapting to Shifting Trends

Dimensions Math's genesis was a response to changing trends in educational preferences. The decline in Primary Mathematics sales and the call for modernization prompted the publisher to introduce a curriculum that sought to please both homeschoolers and schools.

While the attempt at balance brought color to teacher guides and added engaging elements, the decision to overlook changes in the math curriculum or MOE’s curriculum-wide recommendations left Dimensions Math caught between the expectations of the past and the demands of the future.

Unraveling Dimensions Math

As we unravel the narrative of Dimensions Math, it becomes evident that beneath the glossy veneer lies a curriculum entangled in decisions of the past and aspirations for the future. The quest for a curriculum that appeases both tradition and modernity has led to an evolution that, while commendable in some aspects, falls short of meeting the diverse and dynamic needs of contemporary education.

Dimensions Math Reviews

Many Dimensions Math curriculum reviews, found on various homeschooling blogs and YouTube channels, tend to concentrate on superficial aspects of the curriculum—things like the color of textbooks, the layout of teacher guides, and the abundance of activities. Unfortunately, these dimensions math reviews often overlook a critical aspect: Dimensions is not aligned with the latest Singapore Math curriculum.

This misalignment is a significant drawback, requiring users to supplement the program with additional resources, such as the adaptive learning program. It is crucial for reviewers to recognize and communicate that Dimensions Math is best utilized in conjunction with supplementary materials to provide a comprehensive and well-rounded learning experience.

Dimensions Math Cons

To highlight the distinctions between Dimensions Math and the more current Singapore Math curriculum, we will begin by addressing some of Dimensions' notable drawbacks. In our exploration of Dimensions Math, as part of our comprehensive math curriculum comparison, we'll conduct a thorough review, drawing comparisons with the Ministry of Education's (MOE) mathematics syllabus and referencing relevant quotes from it. This approach will shed light on the program's areas of improvement in relation to the established educational standards.

1. Lack of focus and relevancy

Dimensions Math falls short of delivering a focused and relevant learning experience, as it doesn't incorporate the enhanced pedagogical directives outlined in the Singapore Math syllabi of 2012 and 2020. These syllabi articulate a clear roadmap for students through three critical learning phases: readiness, engagement, and mastery.

In 2012, the Singapore syllabus emphasized the development of reasoning and communication skills while advocating for engaging learning experiences, especially leveraging technology for digital natives. The subsequent 2020 syllabus expanded on this foundation, introducing new focal points such as big ideas, appreciation of mathematics, metacognition, and the integration of technology to foster 21st-century skills.

"The revised syllabus builds on this effort to further improve teaching and learning of mathematics at the primary level to ensure that the curriculum remains relevant and continues to prepare students well for learning mathematics at the secondary level." (Singapore MOE, 2020). Unfortunately, Dimensions Math fails to align with these advancements, leaving it less focused and less relevant compared to the updated Singapore Math programs that integrate these progressive changes to enhance teaching and learning.

2. Old style textbooks and workbooks

In a digital age where education is evolving to meet the needs of tech-savvy learners, Dimensions Math falls short in adopting contemporary instructional methods. The program clings to an antiquated pen-and-paper format, reminiscent of 20th-century learning materials. The focus seems to be more on revamping the design and usability of the old Primary Mathematics books than on propelling Dimensions into a more forward-looking, 21st-century educational landscape. The Singapore syllabus underscored the necessity for engaging digital natives comfortably accustomed to technology, stating, "The learning of mathematics must take into cognizance the new generation of learners, the innovations in pedagogies, as well as the affordances of technologies" (Singapore MOE, 2012, Mathematics Syllabus, Primary One to Six, p. 17). Unfortunately, Dimensions Math fails to align with this vision, persisting in promoting outdated learning methodologies through traditional textbooks and workbooks.

3. Boring practice

A notable drawback of Dimensions Math lies in its uninspiring approach to practice exercises. Despite the Singapore syllabus recommendations in 2012 and 2020 to infuse practice with variety, engagement, and interest to enhance student motivation and mastery, Dimensions falls short in delivering a diverse and stimulating practice experience. The program's lack of a contemporary technology platform hinders its ability to provide students with the diverse and engaging game practice that digital natives now anticipate and require. Consequently, students are confined to practicing problems with traditional workbooks and completing exercises online, resembling a worksheet-style practice that may not resonate with the expectations of today's learners.

4. Lack of resources

Dimensions Math falls short in comparison to its predecessor, Primary Mathematics, when it comes to resource variety. Unlike the comprehensive offerings of Primary Mathematics, Dimensions lacks essential resources that educators have come to value in the Singapore Math program. Notably absent are challenging word problems and supplementary practice workbooks that typically feature worked-out examples. These crucial resources play a vital role in assisting educators with differentiated instruction, providing additional practice for students, and supporting the journey toward mastery. The deficiency of such materials in Dimensions Math diminishes its versatility and the breadth of resources available to both teachers and students.

5. One size fits all learning

Dimensions Math adheres to a dated, one-size-fits-all instructional model reminiscent of 20th-century education. The absence of a modern technology platform makes it challenging to customize instruction for individual learners within the Dimensions framework. This limitation arises from the publisher's reluctance to align with the evolving goals of the Singapore Math framework, as articulated in the syllabus as early as 2012:

"…to provide a more engaging, student-centered, and technology-enabled learning environment, and to promote greater diversity and creativity in learning" (Singapore MOE, 2012, Mathematics Syllabus, Primary One to Six, p. 17).

Despite later attempts, such as the introduction of video lessons for an additional cost of $85 per child per year, these resources remain tailored to the traditional teach-from-a-textbook format. Although the company offers e-books and online practice at an extra cost, these resources are basic and are not even accessible to homeschooling families, further limiting the program's adaptability to diverse learning needs.

6. Weak connection between school and home learning

One notable drawback of Dimensions Math is its weak integration between school and home learning. Unlike some other contemporary math programs, Dimensions Math falls short in establishing a seamless connection that supports a cohesive learning experience between the school and home environments.

The program lacks the necessary features and resources that facilitate effective communication and collaboration between teachers and parents. Without robust tools for sharing insights into student progress, strategies for reinforcement, or personalized learning plans, the connection between what is taught in the classroom and how it is reinforced at home becomes weakened.

In contrast, modern math programs often leverage technology and online platforms to provide real-time updates, interactive resources, and collaborative spaces where teachers and parents can work together to enhance a student's understanding of mathematical concepts. This gap in connectivity hinders the potential for a holistic and integrated learning experience, making it more challenging for parents to support their children's education effectively.

7. Increased time of preparation for teaching lessons

Dimensions Math introduces an unintended challenge for homeschooling parents, particularly with an increased workload in lesson preparation. The addition of numerous activities in almost every lesson across PK-5 has resulted in longer lessons, demanding more time and effort in preparing for effective teaching.

The escalated prep work can become overwhelming, especially for homeschooling parents who already manage a myriad of responsibilities at home. Moreover, many activities presented in the textbooks are tailored for traditional in-classroom settings, making them less suitable for the homeschooling environment. Unlike the user-friendly US edition of Primary Mathematics, Dimensions Math requires parents to navigate through a plethora of activities, leading to confusion about which ones are essential and which can be skipped. This inadvertently complicates the teaching process at home, making it less accessible and efficient for homeschooling parents.

8. Old summative assessments

Dimensions Math adheres to outdated summative assessments, a departure from the recommended shift towards more integrated and diagnostic evaluation practices outlined in the Singapore Math syllabi of 2012 and 2020. The evolving pedagogical landscape urged a transition from a mere post-learning assessment to diagnostic evaluation, which ascertain a student's readiness for new concepts.

The relevance of diagnostic assessments is emphasized in the Singapore MOE (2012): "Some form of diagnostic assessment is necessary to check that students are ready to learn." Despite this, Dimensions Math utilizes repurposed placement test and summative assessments originally designed for the Common Core edition of Primary Mathematics. Regrettably, these assessments lack the necessary variety and diagnostic capabilities essential for identifying and addressing individual knowledge gaps effectively. The reliance on outdated assessment methods diminishes the program's potential to facilitate personalized learning experiences for students.

Dimensions Math Pros

While acknowledging the challenges and drawbacks of Dimensions Math, it's important to highlight some potential strengths or pros of the program:

Familiarity for Primary Mathematics Users

For those who were accustomed to using the Primary Mathematics program, Dimensions Math maintains a certain degree of familiarity in terms of structure and format in Kindergarten to Grade 5. Users of the older curriculum might find it easier to transition.

Updated Design and Materials

Dimensions Math introduces a refreshed design and updated materials, offering a visually appealing and modernized look compared to the previous Primary Mathematics editions.

Incorporation of Technology (Video Lessons)

Dimensions Math includes a series of video lessons for each grade level, providing an additional resource for both teachers and students. While designed for a traditional teaching approach, these videos can serve as supplementary material.

Inclusion of Online Resources

The program offers online resources, including e-books and practice materials, which, though basic, contribute to the availability of digital content for students and teachers.

Enhanced Teacher Guides for Schools

For schools using the program, Dimensions Math offers teacher guides with added color, activities, and games. This enhancement aims to cater to the needs of modern teachers and students.

Early Learning Focus

Dimensions Math stands out by providing a Pre K curriculum, offering a comprehensive early learning foundation that goes beyond the starting point of Primary Mathematics, making it suitable for an even younger age group.

It's important to note that the pros mentioned above should be considered in the context of specific user preferences and needs. While Dimensions Math may have some positive aspects, users should weigh these against their own educational goals and preferences.

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