Singapore math textbooks and workbooks are notoriously known to be shy of non-routine questions, which are a necessary but not sufficient step to enhancing the mathematical problem-solving skills of local elementary school students. It’s common knowledge among local teachers, tutors, and parents that a child with an average or above-average IQ studying in a Singapore government school may still flunk her school math paper even after religiously practicing all the questions in her math books. This is because most local school test and exam papers are often set at a standard above the perceived mathematical ability of an average child in Singapore (or maybe even in developed countries like the UK, US, or Australia).
Thousands of Tutors Are on Standby
Luckily, we’ve enough competent tutors [aka moonlighters] around to help our struggling (but otherwise intellectually normal and healthy) students to solve that problem. Singapore is known as a haven for assessment (or supplementary) books, and math titles inarguably forms an unhealthy percent of them. Until now, most math books from Singapore that are being used overseas are primarily foreign adaptations of local textbooks and workbooks.
In a number of cases, these foreign editions have been adulterated so much to meet the mathematical needs of the students in their respective countries or states, where the Ministries of Education or Heads of Department have nevertheless been bold enough to embrace a foreign curriculum, such as Singapore math, to raise the quantitative skills of their students and teachers, in spite of fierce opposition from stakeholders, colleagues, or parents.
Go Beyond the Textbooks and Workbooks
Ironically, but not surprisingly, for decades now, the best math books in Singapore tend to be published by small local publishing houses, as compared to the big players which have the financial muscle to invest in the printing of textbooks and workbooks. In fact, this is one key factor how disturbingly small players—often family-owned and ethically challenged businesses—through their value-for-money assessment titles have been able to kick-ass the oft-constipated bigger players, which seem to take ages to publish any submitted manuscripts, and still churn out half-edited published titles.
Thanks to technology, and with new digital channels to distribute their math titles overseas, small local publishers and solopreneurs may eventually benefit more students, teachers, and parents, who have so far been limited (or shortchanged) by a distorted image of what Singapore math is all about—for instance, local students even from non-elite public schools are exposed to more rigorous mathematics, and to more challenging questions, as compared to mathematics contents depicted in Singapore math textbooks and workbooks.
Will Singapore Math E-Books Be the Solution?
Amazon.com, ClickBank.com, and the like are a God-sent blessing to any local math writers and authors, who wish to share their mathematical knowhow with their fellow math educators overseas. Indeed, the days of traditional publishing of poorly edited and uncreative Singapore math books seem numbered. May creativity and technology triumph over complacency and incompetency. And say NO to editorial ineptitude and unethical practices from both big and small publishers of Singapore math books.
© Yan Kow Cheong, July 3. 2014.