Singapore Math vs Montessori Math

It is quite overwhelming the sheer number of math programs out there for homeschoolers.  Though we already use Montessori math, I got side tracked into cursory looking at the different programs this morning in my quest for math skyscrapers.

What’s Singapore Math?  The only thing I know about it is the review from Cathy Duffy and the free worksheets I looked through quickly.  What jumps out at me from her review are:

  1. It’s a program that teaches children math from concrete, to pictorial, then abstract.  Sounds like Montessori Math.
  2. Concepts are taught thoroughly and sequentially rather than in a spiral.  So once a concept is covered it isn’t covered again except in review.  Montessori Math is more a more spiral approach I think.
  3. The program requires one-on-one teaching.  Not Montessori at all unless they mean that the concept is taught one-on-one and then the children work on it.  Montessori kind of emphasizes the working and learning by yourself part.

I got a headache looking at the worksheets.  I was reminded of the pages and pages of worksheets I did as a child, which often has NO BEARING on math in real life.  I know people say that Singapore Math’s strong point is in how it relates to real world problems.  But looking at the worksheets, often my confusion is on interpreting what the math question is trying to say.  However, they did illustrate concepts that I don’t see in Montessori Math concrete materials.

From Singapore Math I jumped to this listing of homeschool math curriculum overview.  It’s nice seeing it in one page.  A forum thread I came across elsewhere noted that Math-U-See, Shiller Math, and one more all came out of Montessori.  Apparently the “founders” trained with her or her disciples.  Many of these work with the concept of concrete to abstract. Someone also said that Singapore Math is based on Montessori.  I can see that from the point of going from concrete to abstract.  But this idea of teaching math isn’t copyrighted; I’m sure lots of other people have the same idea.  Except maybe Maria beat them by about 100 years.

Singapore Math is super nice to have because it really lays it all out there for you, the math concepts you need to cover, broken down in specific units.  For example, I saw problems for adding 10,000 to a number, or for learning how one equation is same as another, or adding one or subtracting just one from a number.  Very detailed concepts.  Whereas in Montessori, it’s just divided into addition of 4 large numbers, and memorization of addition.  I don’t know if Thumper understand how easy it is to just add a 1000 to a number in an abstract way.  And these are worksheets for 1st graders.  Speaking of Singapore Math, here is a link to free Singapore math material.

So I think people choose programs like Math-U-See or Singapore Math because the curriculum IS laid out for you, in a workbook format.  You know you’re done when you finish the workbook.  It’s much easier to stick an addition worksheet in front of Thumper to see whether or not she has mastered the concept.  It’s harder having her pull out equations from a drawer or generate her own, even though those are more interesting for her to work with.  In addition, while math is sequential, the freedom of choice and the way multiple materials cover the same concepts or review previous concepts can be overwhelming for people who are used to a very sequenced and ordered way of learning (ME!).  It is only human nature that we want to categorize and order things (curriculum in this case).  But for now I’m going to stick with Montessori math, maybe using Singapore Math workbooks as a supplement to see what other concepts I need to teach.  I know Montessori math doesn’t necessarily cover all state standards.  Part of the reason I’d been searching is I learned through worksheets.

But, if Montessori math is the precursor to many of these other math programs, then why not use it.  There is no reason to use materials that have been redesigned and thus lose some of the indirect methods math is taught concretely.  For example, I see the Shiller math concrete materials don’t color code the place values (unit bead, ten bar, hundred square, thousand cubes).  The only thing of course is cost.  The materials are not cheap for homeschoolers.

I never did find my math skyscrapers, which are these drawers of equations to children to work through.  Onward to the search!


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