The Benefits of Starting Small

| October 15, 2010

A recent article in the NY Times highlights the spread of “Singapore math.” In this format, students and teachers slow the progression and focus on basics for long periods. In one example, a teacher describes spending 45 minutes on the number 1.

To some in American education, this might seem a step backwards. Our textbooks have been getting longer for decades as we struggle to cover all the curriculum. The common sense approach suggests that the easiest way to get more information in a person’s brain is to expose them to more.

As the Singapore math example suggests, this approach can be seriously flawed. In our work with underperforming students, TC Buddies regularly see evidence that all that content is effectively falling on deaf ears. Educators throw math problems at students who can’t read. Reading assessments, whether computer-based or not, check for coverage rather than comprehension. By the time individual issues like these are uncovered, the students are already so far behind that their chances of “catching up” are small.┬áPrograms like Singapore math and the TC Buddies, which allow young students to spend time learning the fundamentals of math and reading, prepare them for a future of excellence in education.