Seven Big Changes in the Singapore Math Curriculum
We’re looking at what has changed: from math content to the process of learning. Why you should upgrade to the new math curriculum or supplement with adaptive math learning.
Singapore reviews and updates its mathematics syllabus with the goal to incorporate the newest trends in math education into its curriculum every eight to ten years. The last two major changes in mathematics curriculum occurred in 2012 and 2020. Changes in teaching mathematics followed and have been gradually implemented over the last ten years, starting in 2013 and continuing to the present.
Consequently, we’re looking at what has changed in the last ten years, current trends in math curriculum, and what it means for educators and students.
Why make changes in mathematics curriculum?
Why make changes to the top math curriculum? What has changed? Which changes in the curriculum will have lasting import?
Modernizing curriculum design to stay relevant
It’s smart to modernize design and teaching practices because the quality of the math curriculum is as much in its design and delivery as in its content. Importantly, curriculum design and technology must meet the needs and expectations of the new generation of students and teachers.
Evolution in math education
The fact is that the world constantly changes and we must adapt. Similarly, changes in mathematics education also occur periodically. Evolution in mathematics education means that for any math curriculum to be relevant it must be always forward looking.
Changes in teaching mathematics
Accordingly, Singapore curriculum specialists observe and periodically review recent trends in math education. They’re constantly on the lookout for new research and innovations. They watch for changes in math education. Specifically, they watch for changes in teaching mathematics that improve learning.
Consequently, the Singapore Math syllabus goes through a constant process of review to stay relevant and meet the needs of modern young learners. The new math curriculum incorporates the best of current trends and latest improvements in teaching mathematics every eight to ten years.
What has changed?
New student-centered learning experiences
It’s necessary to meet digital natives where they are. Why? It matters what kind of learning experiences young students receive because these experiences shape their attitudes toward mathematics.
Digital natives demand more engaging learning experiences using technology. Thus, an important recent change in math curriculum was specifically made to provide students with more personalized and fun learning experiences.
New technology-driven learning
Overall, trends in math education consistently point toward greater use of technology. Therefore, the Singapore Math curriculum was updated and became technology-driven to be more relevant for the new generation of students and to meet their needs and expectations.
Why it matters?
Improving mathematics learning
It’s important for both teachers and parents to know the important changes that were made in the Singapore Math syllabus. Why? Teachers should incorporate student-centered learning experiences and new technology into their teaching to improve learning.
Homeschooling parents should also be informed about the changes and either consider upgrading to the new homeschool math curriculum or supplement an outdated textbook program with Singapore Math adaptive learning.
Looking into the future
We need to look into the future. Why? Young learners will need to be prepared for learning in higher grade levels and in different subject areas with increasing use of technology. Ultimately, students need to be well prepared to thrive in the new economy which is the economy of innovation. Consequently, in the long run, educators should seriously consider adopting the new math curriculum.
The Seven Changes in Mathematics Curriculum
In ascending order of significance – and yes, this ranking is weighted toward educators who use old or outdated Singapore programs – here are the seven biggest changes in the Singapore Math curriculum that occurred in the last 10 years.
1. The new goal
The big picture
The new goal of the Singapore Math curriculum is to prepare the new generation of learners for solving problems using both mathematics and technology. That is a big deal, which represents a departure from outdated textbook learning.
Learning concepts, acquiring skills, and using mathematics to solve problems are still very important. But if the young learners are not engaged in student-centered and technology-enabled learning environments that promotes interest in mathematics, then such learning is of limited use.
New curriculum for digital natives
The new math curriculum recognizes that the new generation of learners are digital natives who use technology on a daily basis and who think differently. Mathematics learning must be relevant for these new 21st century learners. Therefore, the curriculum must build a strong math foundation by increasingly engaging the new generation of learners with innovations in technology.
2. New focus on how students learn math
From content to process of learning
The new math curriculum places its major focus on how students learn. While math content was reviewed, very little has been changed over the last 20 years. Instead, the new curriculum shifts its focus from content to the process of learning.
Also, major changes have occurred in the process of teaching that provide for opportunities to learn mathematics in contexts relevant to future learning- and work-based environments.
Creativity in solving problems
The new curriculum describes changes in teaching mathematics. While the five components of the framework remain the same, it’s focus shifted from content to creativity in learning. The new intent of the math framework is to engage 21st century learners in problem solving in more relevant, diverse, and engaging learning experiences in the technology-enabled learning environment.
Reflective math learning
The new mathematics curriculum provides students with opportunities for having learning experiences beyond the acquisition of concepts and skills and reflecting on their learning at the end of every lesson.
The habit of reflecting after every lesson, which is cultivated from an early age, builds metacognitive thinking over time and helps students make connections between mathematical ideas, develop systematic approaches to solving problems, and then apply knowledge solving a variety of novel problems in real world contexts.
3. New smart math practice
New motivated practice
How students practice matter. Students’ attitudes toward mathematics are shaped by their learning experiences. Practicing during game time in a personalized, engaging and technology-enabled environment is richer than completing 20 boring problems on a worksheet.
Therefore, making practice more fun, meaningful and relevant goes a long way in creating positive attitudes toward mathematics and in building confidence.
New variations, progressions and repetitions
For students to develop long-lasting mastery, practice must include repetition and variation. Repetition for fact fluency. Variation for deeper understanding. Frequency for instant recall. Progression for confidence.
The new curriculum still provides plenty of traditional practice, which is full of repetition and variation to achieve flexibility with numbers and proficiency. At the same time, new math curriculum examples are shown as fun games to stimulate students to practice while allowing for repetition and variation.
New differentiated practice
The new math curriculum provides for differentiated pathways, choices, and variability of practice to help learners of differing abilities achieve their full potential. New practice incorporates innovations in pedagogy and technology and it’s designed for a new generation of students.
4. New math assessments
New integrated assessments
New math assessments arrived. Integrating assessments into math learning is a new more thoughtful way of using assessments to improve learning. It involves shifting a teaching practice from assessing what was learned after each unit to using assessments for diagnostics and then using them to select the right content and instructional method and then adapting learning to differentiate instruction.
New assessments for different needs
The new math curriculum provides teachers with a choice of assessments and each of them fits a different purpose. Diagnostic math assessments are used to gather information about students’ prior knowledge, to personalize learning, and, if necessary, to fill in knowledge gaps. Formative assessments are used to provide timely feedback and to improve learning. Summative assessments take the back stage to assess what students learned at the end of a lesson or unit.
5. More advanced teaching methods
Current trends in math curriculum
In each of the last two revisions, the mathematics syllabus describes in ever greater detail what modern learning experiences students should receive. Also, with each revision, the syllabus updates the repertoire of teaching practices in each of the three phases of learning. It’s a strong indication that the new math curriculum incorporates the latest and most advanced teaching methods to make the three learning phases more effective.
First stage – getting students ready to learn
First, a diagnostic assessment is required to make sure that students have the prior knowledge necessary to learn new content. Next, students need to be motivated to learn with activities, games, technology or relevant contexts in an emotionally-safe environment.
Second stage – selecting the right teaching method for engaging in learning
There is a choice of three teaching methods to fit different lesson objectives and teachers need to select the correct method to meet each learning effective. The teaching methods are not mutually exclusive. Each method can be used for teaching an individual lesson and unit or a part of the lesson and unit.
An activity-based method is usually used in the beginning of each unit and chapter to construct understanding using manipulatives and situational contexts. A teacher-directed inquiry method is used to teach students finding answers on their own, an increasingly important 21st century skill.
Finally, direct instruction is used for explicit teaching. Use of graphics, games, technology and other tools are necessary to make learning more interesting and maintain student attention for as long as possible.
Third stage – helping students achieve mastery
It’s necessary to motivate students to practice using fun activities. It’s especially important to motivate digital learners to practice using online games and technology for learning 21st century skills. The new curriculum provides students with multiple opportunities to reflect and to extend learning to achieve long-lasting mastery.
6. Math applications using technology
In each of the last two revisions, the curriculum emphasizes teaching mathematics and solving problems in real-world contexts (applications). Why? The ability to use technology and to apply knowledge to common problems (shopping, home improvement, etc.) is a modern necessity and is a big part of young students’ lives.
Importantly, technology makes learning mathematics more fun for digital natives and helps them better understand mathematical concepts through visualizations, simulations, and games. Also, the new math curriculum provides for many applications of mathematics in solving problems in real-world contexts to help students see the meaning and relevance of mathematics to their daily lives.
7. Three new key focus areas
The revised 2021 curriculum builds on the strengths of the previous syllabus and current trends in math curriculum to ensure that the new math program remains relevant for the new generation of learners. It emphasizes that teachers should focus learning on 3 key areas to:
- Develop critical mathematical processes and prepare learners for solving problems using both mathematics and technology.
- Develop deeper understanding of big ideas.
- Provide more opportunities for reflection and self-directed learning.
Are you using the newest math curriculum?
The latest curriculum’s revisions to the learning process show that it’s important to use the latest Singapore Math program that incorporates all of the important changes, including embedded high quality math instruction, and robust platform for learning at home.
We therefore strongly recommend that Singapore Math users either upgrade to the new program or supplement your current program with Singapore Math adaptive learning.