Saturday, April 15, 2017

Math in Singapore - Where is the data?

Recently I attended a 60 minute webinar, originally attracted by the inference that information about Singapore's techniques and methods that contributed to its great TIMSS math results would be revealed. The only thing that was revealed is that students in Singapore consider their teacher good if the teacher teaches them so that they do well on tests.  Whereas in the USA students consider their teacher great if they have a good relationship with their teacher.

It was also mentioned that the USA ranks in the top ten of TIMSS countries and that apparently is good enough.

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I maintain that Singapore ranks far above USA on grade 8 TIMSS, that Singapore has teachers that are much more prepared to teach math, that Singapore requires much greater competence at each grade level so that promoted students know their stuff.  Traditionally Singapore has developed books that are very effective whereas the USA has not.  Now in some districts there is a move away from books to computers, yet there is no pilot data indicating this is a good idea.  Once again some locations in Education USA are going to the leading bleeding edge without relevant data.

Singapore vs USA compared from grade 4 2011 to grade 8 2015
---------grade 4 :: grade 8 :: change over 4 years for the cohort
USA  ------   541 :: 518 :: -23 lower
Singapore -- 606 :: 621 :: +15 higher
USA Gap : :  -65 :: -103 :: -38 worse

This performance collapse of the cohort in grade 8 USA TIMSS Math testing should be of great concern, yet is hardly noticed by so many current leaders.    For a long time this fall from higher grade 4 scores to much lower grade 8 scores has been evident.   --(What me Worry? - A.E. Newman)

USA and Singapore teacher academic math background at grade 4

2015  grade 4 Math  country name
 then percent of teachers in Category 1 and their student scores
then percent of teachers in Category 2 and their students' scores
then percent of teachers in Category 3 and their students scores

CAT 1           -------- ||   --- Cat 2  -------------- ||  --- Cat 3 || Cat 4

Major in Primary Ed || Majored in Primary Ed || Majored in   || Other
 and specialized or    ||  no Math specialization || Math but no|| Major
Majored in Math       ||                                       ||  primary Ed

Singapore  --- 59 (621)  :: 14 (629) :: 14 (611) :: 11 (598)

Taipei -------- 37 (599)  ::  44 (594)  ::   3 (602)  ::  15 (599)

Japan  -------- 17 (593) ::  73 (595)  ::    2 (??)  ::   7 (594)

Florida  -------11  (566) ::  68 (549)  ::   4 (536)  ::  16 (535)

England  ----- 12 (548)  ::   57 (543) ::  4 (582)  ::  27 (552)

Ireland  ------ 12 (547)  ::  78 (545)  ::  3 (556)  ::  6 (560)

USA   -------- 13 (537)   ::  73 (540) ::   2 (??)    :: 12 (541)

Finland  ----- 10  (535)  ::  82 (536)  ::    0 (??)   ::   7 (521)

Denmark ---- 38 (534)  ::  12 (527)  :: 30 (536) :: 13 (548)

Quebec  ------- 6 (519)  ::  86 (537)  ::  5 (531)  ::  3 (530)

Canada   ------ 6 (495)  ::   79 (513)  ::  3 (518)  ::  12 (501)

It should be noted that Singapore with 59% of its 4th grade teachers being specialized in both Elementary Ed and Mathematics is the highest scoring country.

Florida had for many years been a low performing state until it required students to be able to proficiently read to advance to grade 4.  With a large focus on reading to get to grade 4 things changed a lot in Florida. Notice FL out scores USA.

For most countries there is not much variation across the four categories.    Scores of more than 10 points variation from countries average of four scores are highlighted.
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USA and Singapore teacher academic math background at grade 8

2015  grade 8 Math  country name
 then percent of teachers in Category 1 and their student scores
then percent of teachers in Category 2 and their students' scores
then percent of teachers in Category 3 and their students scores

CAT 1    -------- ||   --- Cat 2  ----------||  --- Cat 3 ------|| Cat 4

Major in             || Major in                 || Majored in         || Other
Mathematics and||Mathematics but no|| Math ED but no|| Major
Math  Education ||  Math Education    ||  Math Major

Singapore  --- 53 (625)  :: 31 (614)    ::    6 (645) ::    10 (595)

Taipei --------   31 (610)  ::  50 (600)  ::   4 (599)   ::   15 (577)

Korea ----        18 (610)   ::  30 (606)  ::   49 (603) ::  3 (618)

Japan  ---------- 41 (582)  ::  40 (593)  ::    6 (562)  ::   13 (592)

Hong Kong --- 42 (574)  ::  25 (610)   ::   9 (597)  ::   23 (610)

Russian Fed --  58 (544)  ::  41 (530)   ::    0 (??)  ::     1 (??)

Florida  -------   26  (498) ::  24 (506)  ::   14 (532)  ::  35 (489)

England  -------  44 (520)  ::   37 (526) ::    4 (475)  ::  15 (504)

Ireland  --------   33 (519)  ::  36 (532)  ::  8 (534)  ::  22 (510)

USA   ----------  35 (521)   ::  12 (512)  ::   22 (513)    :: 31 (522)

Sweden  -----      50  (506)  ::  17 (495)  ::    21 (497)   ::   11 (489)

Quebec  -------    43 (557) ::  16 (543)   ::   25 (561)  ::  15 (522)

Canada   ------    19 (545)   ::   8 (537)   ::  15 (546)    ::  59 (521)

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8th grade Teachers with
NO "strong academic" Math background  Cat 3 + Cat 4 (nation's 8th grade 2015 score)

Singapore  --- 16% (621)
Korea ---------  52% (606)
Taipei --------   19% (599)
Hong Kong --  32% (594)
Japan  ---------- 19% (586)

Quebec  -------    40% (543)
Russian Federation 1% (538)
Canada   ------    74%  (527)

Ireland  --------   30% (523)

England  -------  19% (518)

USA   ----------  53% (518)

Sweden  -----      32% (501)

Florida  -------   49% (493)

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TIMSS grade 8 Math 2015
The five East Asian countries Singapore, Taipei, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan increased the gap above #6 to 48 points in 2011 the gap was 31 points.

It is way past time to start emulating the curriculum and practices used in these five countries.

While citizens of Singapore and Hong Kong are very wealthy, the citizens of the other three East Asian countries are not any where near as wealthy.

It is time to put an end to the obsession for unguided inquiry and develop effective efficient programs of instruction, which emphasize greater procedural fluency in elementary school.  It is time to learn from the highest performing countries.

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