ATTITUDES TO MATHS LEARNING AND SUPPORT
Singapore leads the States and England
A new report ‘ A Cross-Country Exploration of Math-Related Learning in the United States, England, and Singapore: Parent Perceptions and Practices Regarding Math Education During the Middle School Years’; Eduventures, Raytheon explores why the United States may be struggling in ‘math’, with a focus on attitudes, beliefs, and behaviour of parents, and their children’s out-of-school activities. The survey involved more than 1,000 parents in the United States, Singapore—a top international performer—and England.
Among the key findings: Parents in Singapore are far more likely than those in the United States and England to engage a maths tutor to help their child, they’re more likely to get assistance from teachers and others in how to help their child, and their children more often take part in math competitions and math/science camps.
“We come back to this phrase of active learning: More parents in Singapore and students in Singapore are participating in things that are very active,” Lia Schultz, a researcher at Eduventures who co-authored the study, said in an interview.
Consistent with these results were some responses related to parental attitudes reported in the study, which was commissioned by Raytheon Company . For example, 75 percent of Singapore parents said it’s important to provide maths learning opportunities outside the school curriculum, compared with 53 percent in the U.S. and 49 percent in England.
Interestingly, U.S. parents expressed much higher confidence in their ability to help their children in maths than did parents in Singapore. Whether this U.S. confidence is well-placed is hard to say, but the report suggests that one explanation may be that the middle school maths curriculum is more advanced in Singapore than in the United States.
“This is really the first study that I know of that is an international comparison of parental attitudes and their active engagement,” said Brian Fitzgerald, the executive director of the Business-Higher Education Forum “It’s very very clear that we need to equip our parents to do a better job of helping their sons and daughters become truly math proficient.”
The CEO of Raytheon, the report’s sponsor, is currently the chairman of the Business Higher-Education Forum.
Here are some more detailed highlights from the study:
• 39 percent of parents in Singapore report using a maths tutor to help their children, compared with 16 percent in the United States and England.
• 33 percent of Singapore students (ages 10-14) participated in a maths competition over the past year, compared with 20 percent in England and 9 percent in the U.S.
• 14 percent of Singapore students participated in a robotics competition, compared with 2 percent in the United States and 1 percent in England.
• At the same time, participation in science fairs by students in the United States and Singapore was about the same, and more U.S. students (17 percent) participated in spelling bees than those in either Singapore (10 percent) or England (13 percent).
• 26 percent of Singapore students participated in a camp or extracurricular activity focused on maths or science in the past year, compared with 11 percent in the U.S. and 7 percent in England.
• 52 percent of parents in Singapore report the use of maths worksheets or work books by their children outside school, compared with 19 percent in England and 18 percent in the United States.
• 51 percent of Singapore parents report getting help from their child’s school or another organization to help prepare for maths exams, compared with 25 percent in both England and the U.S.
• The difference in outside support was smaller, however, when it comes to getting help in completing specific maths assignments, with 46 percent in Singapore, 36 percent in England, and 34 percent in the United States.
The report concludes that ‘ Collectively and collaboratively, stakeholders must employ effective math practices already in place in other parts of the globe. High math performance at the middle-school level most readily occurs when all parties involved in educating students are highly and actively engaged. Singapore, a country that consistently cultivates a top-performing student body in mathematics, demonstrates the following:
◆ Parental involvement in math help and the provision of math resources
◆ Educator communication regarding math assignments and exams
◆ Commitment to excellence in the provision of both remedial and enrichment math instruction
◆ Student engagement in active math learning such as competitions, camps, and games’