This is the next post in my Considering Homeschooling? series. You can click your way over to Part I, Part II Intro, and the Early Years if you like.
When Orville began 1st grade, I selected Sonlight Curriculum for him. I will write more about how that worked for us in my next post. Per Sonlight's suggestion, I started him in Singapore Math that year. Wilbur began Singapore's level 1 the following year, and we have never looked back.
We chose Singapore because of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science study. Singapore students took the top scores on this study for three years. The features of Singapore Math were exactly what I was looking for, too.
Singapore begins instruction with concrete examples and builds to the abstract. This means that the students don't just learn how but also why and are moved along the ladder of learning in such a way that all skills are put into practice. Some do not like this approach, citing that there is not enough rote practice for the students to master the skills. It has been our experience that developing a deeper understanding of the math concepts and putting them into real applications has led to high retention. Also, Singapore stresses mental math and algebraic thinking. We have not begun Algebra yet, but this type of thinking in the early years is supposed to make the transition easier. You can read more about the benefits of Singapore Math here.
I will admit that I supplement Singapore with flash cards, computer games, memory songs, and free worksheets found online for those things that must be memorized (like times tables). I have always felt like these types of supplements are available in abundance, making it easy to add this component to our Singapore studies. However, programs that stretch children's mathematical thinking, like Singapore, are difficult to find and not as easy to supplement.
Also, one of my sons does struggle with memorization. His ability to problem solve and reason is very high. I firmly believe that he has been able to memorize as well as he has (which is not perfect but better than could be) because of the way Singapore "exercises his brain", so to speak. I also believe that if he were completing a program that stresses memorization and drill work, his math frustration level would be high and he would not enjoy math. Instead, he says that math is his favorite subject.
Another great feature about Singapore is that the lessons are short and to-the-point. I use the textbook to teach from. When the boys were younger, I provided manipulatives that are similar to the pictorial representations in the text and we worked through the first few problems together. Then I allowed them to work the next set while I watched, having them explain the concept to me. The next day they worked independently and sans manipulatives in the workbook. Each lesson takes about 30 minutes to complete. Some days it takes a little more or a little less. And upkeep is continual.
My boys will continue with Singapore until they have completed the primary level 6B (there are 2 levels per year). Primary is their "elementary" program. Then 6 "elementary" (which is their middle school/high school) levels are available. However, the elementary books are not written to be course specific, as we are accustomed to in the U.S. Algebra, Geometry, Trig, etc. are integrated. Solely because I do not want the process of keeping transcripts to be confusing, I will switch the boys to another math curriculum when they are ready for Algebra. (Though many public schools in the U.S. are adopting Singapore which should make it more familiar and recognized by college admissions boards). I am considering Transitions Math and higher math course books from The University of Chicago's Math Project. I have seen excellent results from this program as well. Their elementary program would be my second choice to Singapore.
I am listing links to Singapore books available at Amazon below. I am an Amazon.com affiliate and will receive a commission from any purchases made from these links.
I also have a link in my side bar to Sonlight Curriculum's website where they offer free placement tests and great advice on how to determine the level of Singapore Math that will best suit your child. Please note that Singapore's scope and sequence runs about one year ahead of most American math programs. If your child is finishing 3rd grade math this year and tests out as needing to start a level 3 book next year, that means he/she is on track. Please do not be discouraged by this.
Any other questions about Singapore? Please feel free to ask.
Happy Curriculum Hunting!
p.s. I am not an affiliate for Singapore Math or for Sonlight Curriculum. I have not been compensated for this post and have offered my unbiased opinion.