Implementing the Singapore Mathematics Curriculum in South Africa: Experiences of Foundation Phase Teachers

Authors: Charmon Naroth and Kakoma Luneta

Due to the low-level and inadequate mathematics knowledge and skills of learners, attention has been drawn to mathematical literacy and numeracy competencies. Many schools are adopting the Singapore Mathematics Curriculum (SMC) to compensate and enrich Mathematics lessons. This study focused on the challenges, recommendations and personal experiences that teachers have had with the Singapore Mathematics Curriculum.

The SMC is based on the premise that learning is the formation of knowledge through active involvement and social interaction, and based upon past experiences and current knowledge. The SMC includes inquiry-based activities and creative and critical thinking. Further, the SMC encourages learners to develop an understanding of a concept through active involvement in their own learning, and to move through three stages: enactive, iconic and symbolic.

The pedagogical focus of the SMC is on problem solving which is defined as: The acquisition and application of mathematics concepts and skills in a wide range of situations, including non-routine, open-ended and real-world problems. The SMC framework is also based on the use of fewer topics that follow a spiral organization, where one layer of content is built on the next.

The learners’ textbook activities are developed on a progression, known as the CPA approach (see Figure 1 below).

Singapore maths figure 1

Figure 1: The CPA approach

Since the CPA approach uses manipulatives to create the concrete experience, it is useful in teaching learners who have special needs and/or a language barrier. The manipulatives provide the visual and tactile stimulation to enhance and improve learning.

Participants found that the SMC textbooks were well-designed and effective in teaching the concepts. They could be followed with no manipulation of information for a South African context. However, the participants highlighted a few challenges, namely, the struggle to implement: a problem-solving approach; bar model drawing; and heuristic strategies for problem solving.

The following solutions were offered: a grade-by-grade implementation strategy; implement SMC in Grade 2; teacher support on problem-solving approaches and heuristic strategies; teacher workshops; professional development programmes; subject meetings or collaboration sessions; promote positive teacher beliefs about mathematics teaching and learning; use the manipulatives with one or two small groups at a time, while the rest of the class is engaged in written activities.

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