Category: Knowledge Published on Thursday, 05 June 2014 11:04

Developing Children’s Mathematical Confidence -by Bill Jackson

Developing confidence and positive attitudes towards mathematics is an important feature of Singapore math. According to Singapore’s national mathematics framework, “Students’ attitudes towards mathematics are shaped by their learning experiences. Making the learning of mathematics fun, meaningful and relevant goes a long way to inculcating positive attitudes towards the subject.”

Unfortunately, because of negative experiences many students do not have a positive attitude towards learning mathematics. These negative attitudes become a self-fulfilling prophecy and unless something happens to change them, struggling students are likely to think, “I’m just not good at math.” According to cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham (2010), “Virtually everyone is fully capable of understanding arithmetic procedures, algebra, geometry and probability deeply enough to allow application to problems in our daily lives.” So if everyone is capable, why do many students believe that they are not? And what can we do to change students’ attitudes towards mathematics?

To improve students’ attitudes the Singapore framework says, “Care and attention should be given to the design of the learning activities, to build confidence in and develop appreciation for the subject.” But just having a “fun lesson” does not mean that children will learn mathematics meaningfully. The Singapore approach is based on problem solving and to many people problem solving is not interesting. But just think about the things that interest most people like puzzles, sports, music, and art. All of these things involve problem solving. What word should go in this crossword puzzle space? How can I make a baseball pitch curve more or less? How does rhythm affect the mood of a song? How can I use perspective to give my painting a sense of depth?

Problem solving by nature is inherently interesting. Problem solving involves confusion and confusion forces us to think. Confusion only becomes a bad thing when we are unable to overcome it. In mathematics, word problems are often confusing because words are abstract and can mean different things. One of the techniques Singapore math uses to help students solve word problems is model drawing. In the Singapore model drawing method, students draw “bar models” to represent problem situations graphically. (Click on http://www.isingaporemath.com/barmodel.php for an example.)

Model drawing effectively removes the words from the problem. Once the problem is turned into a picture it becomes easy to see what to do to solve it. As students become more adept at model drawing they become better problem solvers, and as they become better problem solvers they gain confidence in their mathematical abilities.

Last Updated on Friday, 06 June 2014 09:05

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Category: blog Published on Wednesday, 28 August 2013 08:56

What is Singapore Math? Singapore Math consistently ranks as the top Math Program in the world as measured by U.S. and international studies in the last two decades.