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Myths About Singapore Math

Myths abound about what Singapore Math is. They are mostly perpetuated by non-resident Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans.

Being Singaporeans who have grown up and still residing in Singapore using the Singapore Math curriculum, textbooks and workbooks, we wish to debunk such myths for the benefit of all.

Myth 1: There is only one Singapore Primary Math curriculum

Most non-Singaporeans are under the false impression that there is just one Singapore Primary Math curriculum, or that the Singapore Primary Math curriculum has remained the same throughout the years. Nothing can be further from the truth! Please check our Singapore bookstore.

Myth 2: Singapore Math is Primary Mathematics, and vice versa

It seems that some people are under the wrong impression that Singapore Math is the Primary Mathematics series of textbooks and workbooks, and vice versa. One possible reason for this wrong impression may be that there was only one official mathematics series of textbooks and workbooks used in Singapore primary schools before 2001. The title of that series is called Primary Mathematics (Third Edition).

NONE of the primary schools in Singapore is using Primary Mathematics (Third Edition) for 1st Grade / Primary 1 through 6th Grade / Primary 6 beginning 2001, as it is based on the old and outdated 1999 Reduced-Content Singapore Math curriculum. It has been replaced with several new and better series that are written based on the new and improved 2001 Singapore Math curriculum in all the primary schools in Singapore from 1st Grade / Primary 1 through 6th Grade / Primary 6.

For the record, Singapore's education ministry did not and does not develop a mathematics curriculum solely for the primary school students in Singapore. It actually develops separate mathematics curricula from kindergarten to high school.

That is why for those who mistake Singapore Math to be the Primary Mathematics series, they will often ask, "So what's next after sixth grade? Where do we go from here?" Had they understood the real definition of Singapore Math, they would simply proceed with Singapore's secondary mathematics textbooks and workbooks.

Myth 3: Singapore's success in math is due to the old editions of the Singapore Math textbooks and workbooks

Some people who are not in the know are under the wrong impression that Singapore's success in math is due to the old editions of the Singapore Math textbooks and workbooks.

For those who are in the know, they are able to anaylse better and differentiate the essence from the form. The Singapore Math curriculum (aka syllabus, scope and sequence, or teaching structure) is the essence, whereas the Singapore Math textbooks and workbooks are the form. The essence provides the necessary structure and foundations for the form, which is an extension of the essence.

To say that Singapore's success in math is due to the old editions of the Singapore Math textbooks and workbooks is paying tribute to the form and not the essence. It is therefore missing the point.

It would have been more responsible to say that Singapore's success in math is due to the Singapore Math curriculum, the essence of Singapore Math.

Now, when the time-tested essence of the Singapore Math curriculum has been updated and changed to keep up with the times, but the old editions of the Singapore Math textbooks and workbooks, i.e. Primary Mathematics (Third Edition or some other edition), remain unchanged and stuck in the old era or are changed cosmetically, that form no longer contains the new and improved time-tested essence.

Since 2001, the Singapore Math curriculum has been changed and New Singapore Math series that are based on this new and improved 21st century curriculum have been produced and used in all Singapore primary schools.

Meanwhile, since 2001, the Old Singapore Math curriculum and the Primary Mathematics (Third Edition) series had been discarded and not in use in Singapore.

Myth 4: Singapore's success in math is due to the Primary Mathematics (Third Edition) series

A few people claim that Singapore's success in math is due to the Primary Mathematics (Third Edition) series. Read on and decide for yourself whether you should believe everything that you read or hear elsewhere.

The cohort of Singapore students who took part in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 2007 were from 4th Grade / Primary 4 and 8th Grade / Secondary 2.

The 4th Grade / Primary 4 students were NOT using the Primary Mathematics (Third Edition) series at that time (2007), since that series was no longer used in Singapore since 2001. They were all using the New Singapore Math series.

The 8th Grade / Secondary 2 students were using SECONDARY mathematics textbooks and workbooks at that time, and those were certainly not called PRIMARY Mathematics (Third Edition).

Myth 5: The Primary Mathematics series is time-tested, the other New Singapore Math series are not

A few people claim that the Primary Mathematics series is time-tested while the New Singapore Math series are not. Well, that claim may be flawed in at least one aspect: the use of the term "time-tested".

In 2000 and 2001, all the primary schools in Singapore were using the Primary Mathematics (Third Edition) series for 1st Grade / Primary 1 to 6th Grade / Primary 6 because it was the only Singapore Math series around. In a sense, it is "time-tested", but against what? There simply was no alternative product and there was no real choice. You just had to take it or leave it.

It is just like the old American phone company AT&T before its breakup in 1984. Every American who wanted to make a phone call before 1984 had to use AT&T, like it or not. Now, after the breakup of AT&T in 1984, every American has a real choice of which phone company they want to use because there are more phone companies around. So why aren't all the Americans using AT&T since its products and services are "time-tested"? Why are many Americans using other phone companies instead?

This is what is happening in Singapore where the Singapore Math series are concerned. Now, all the primary schools in Singapore have a real choice of which Singapore Math series they want to use because there are many New Singapore Math series around. All these New Singapore Math series will have to be better than the Primary Mathematics series and the other competing Singapore Math series in order to convince the primary schools in Singapore to use them. And in case you are not aware of it, the Singapore textbook market is very competitive, so you can be assured of the quality of Singapore's textbooks and workbooks.

Bearing in mind that it is now post 2001, all these New Singapore Math series have already been in the market for many years. They can be said to be "time-tested", and they are time-tested against other alternative products.

Myth 6: Singapore is the name of the company that manufactures the Singapore Math books

Yes, there actually are a number of people out there who think that Singapore is the name of the company that manufactures the Singapore Math books. Since this company called "Singapore" manufactures the math books, they reasoned, "their" books are called "Singapore" Math. We just hope that you're not one of them!

Well, Singapore is indeed a very small country in Southeast Asia, and a very small dot on the world map. Some people think that Singapore is a part of Malaysia, some think that it is in China, while others have no idea where it is! But how some people can actually think that it is the name of a private company is really a mystery.

Singapore is a tropical country in Southeast Asia situated below the southern tip of the Malaysia peninsula and surrounded by the Indonesian archipelago to the south.

How anyone can believe that the direction of Singapore's national math curriculum lies in the hands of a private company is beyond our comprehension.

There are many serious implications for the perpetuation of this myth. The most serious implication is that Singapore's education ministry is not properly acknowledged as the creator of the Singapore Math curriculum. This may affect Singapore's grand plan of exporting our education software and hardware to the world.

Myth 7: Singapore Math is the name of a specific math series published by a specific Singapore publisher

Some people think that Singapore Math is the name of a specific math series published by a specific Singapore publisher. Well, there are now various different mathematics series at the primary school level and the secondary level, so which one is it?

It is no wonder that some of these people are confused that there are so many Singapore Math series now.

Even though the Primary Mathematics textbooks and workbooks were published by a specific Singapore publisher, their copyright still belongs to Singapore's education ministry. Singapore's education ministry simply contracts out the publication of its textbooks and workbooks to Singapore companies that tender their bids.

Now that Singapore's education ministry has decided to overhaul its education system and curricula to meet the challenges of the 21st century as well as further improve Singapore's education standards, it has approved more than one Singapore publisher to publish Singapore Math textbooks and workbooks that are based on the new and improved 2001 Singapore Primary Math curriculum.

The result is that there are now more choices for the schools in Singapore, and new and better ideas on implementing and teaching the Singapore Math curriculum than before.

Myth 8: Singapore Math does not have enough repetitive work

Some people have the misconception that Singapore Math does not have enough repetitive work. That is contrary to the truth. In fact, Singapore Math stresses on repetitive work, abstract mathematical thinking, creative problem solving and word problems.

One possible reason for this misconception may be that non-Singaporeans are unfamiliar with Singapore's education system. In Singapore, almost all school teachers supplement their lesson plans with other workbooks other than the school textbooks and workbooks.

In fact, almost every child in Singapore uses several supplementary workbooks for every school subject at home after school hours. This is in addition to the other supplementary workbooks that they use in after school tuition classes!

Those Singapore Math supplementary workbooks provide the repetitive work for the students and are available at SGBox bookstore.

Myth 9: The New Singapore Math is inferior to the Old Singapore Math

Some people claim that the New Singapore Math is inferior to the Old Singapore Math. If that were true, everyone should wonder why Singapore's education ministry is ditching the Old Singapore Math for the New Singapore Math.

If there is one thing about Singapore's education ministry that you should know about, it is that it is widely respected by many countries all over the world for its high standards of education. Thus, in ditching the Old Singapore Math for the New Singapore Math, it must have very good compelling reasons. Prime amongst them is that the Old Singapore Math is way past its prime, and the New Singapore Math is way better and more suited to the needs of the new century.

We aim to be a responsible company and we hope that we have debunked most of the myths pertaining to Singapore Math. In case you have come across other myths about Singapore Math, please feel free to let us know so that we can put them up here and debunk them for everyone's benefit. Thank you.


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