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Singapore Math, Young Men's Handybook, Gap Testing

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, June 15, 2009

                The Homeschooler's Notebook
     Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
   Vol. 10 No 44                          June 15, 2009
                      ISSN: 1536-2035                              
   Copyright (c) 2009 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

  Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

  If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!
  And please visit our sponsors!  They make it possible.

                  PLEASE VISIT OUR SPONSOR:

                  The Full Year Notebook System

  "Two years ago I learned about FULL YEAR NOTEBOOKS and it has
  changed the way I schedule homeschooling. I plan each child's work
  for a year at a time and they each have a notebook with their lessons.
  It takes me a lot of time during our off months to do the planning,
  but it frees up more time for me during the school year because my
  planning is already done!"


  "I have been homeschooling for 14 years (we are graduating our
  first this year) and finally found a system that keeps us organized.
  It is called the Full Year Notebook System. The planning part has
  helped my children to learn to be more independent and plan their
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  folders, drawers, etc. for completed work. Their daily schedule and
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  Find out more!




  Notes from Heather
  -- 4 Moms Speak Out on Singapore
  Helpful Tip
  -- Extra Addition Practice Online
  Resource Review
  -- The Young Man's Handybook
  Reader Question
  -- Testing for Gaps?
  Additional Notes
  -- Newsletter Archives
  -- Sponsorship Information
  -- Reprint Information
  -- Subscriber Information

       Notes from Heather

  Did you ever want the inside scoop on Singapore Math?

  Recently on our HomeschoolingBOYS.com email group, some moms shared
  their detailed opinions and insights about the Singapore program.

  I thought it was interesting enough to share with everyone here!


  "My son started Singapore Math I (Pre-Algebra + Geometry) in 6th
  grade at a Christian school, and being math-gifted, just loved it!
  It moves at a quick pace and is not endlessly spiral like Saxon,
  which bores kids who like math.  On the other hand, it is really
  an excellent program, and even the math-hating or self-identified
  math-challenged students at our school (6-12 grade; I was the
  principal) loved it.

  Everyone I know who has used the elementary portion has also loved
  it, but my son did not use it so I cannot speak specifically to it.

  Some quick things to know about Singapore Math:

  1) It was created by the Educational Ministry of Singapore to increase
  their public-school students' math (and related upper-level-science)
  skills, which it has done dramatically since its inception.

  2) The elementary grade books are called 'Primary Mathematics' and
  the Junior/Senior high level books are 'Elementary Mathematics'
  because in Singaporean (British-based) English, 'elementary' means
  pre-college basics, as in 'fundamental to the advanced study' -- as
  opposed to our usage of 'elementary'.

  3) Both the Imperial system and metric system are used.  Because of
  the metric system's base-10 usage, it is often easier for students
  to deal with it in early algebraic computations.

  4) The scope and sequence don't follow a typical American scope and
  sequence (particularly in the lower grades, as children are taught to
  think mathematically and logically), but I have seen this work well
  for the 'later is better' student.

  5) The first three Elementary Mathematics books are equivalent to
  an American math courses as follows:

  I = Pre-Algebra + introduction to Geometry
  II = Algebra I + first half of Geometry
  III = Algebra II + second half of Geometry
  IV = Pre-Calculus/Trigonometry

  This scope and sequence eliminates the particularly American problem
  of taking off a year between Algebra I and II (doing no Algebra while
  learning Geometry as some un-connected discipline) and losing all
  of one's Algebra skills while making no connection between Geometry
  and Algebra.

  A student who completes I, II, III in three years completes four years
  of American high school math, or you can spread the books out over
  four or five years to accommodate your child's needs.  (When we
  started homeschooling this year for 7th grade, we decided that because
  our son is a year younger than the typical 7th graders and small for
  his age, we would stretch Singapore II out over two years and add some
  economics and financial management in 8th grade; otherwise, we were
  looking at him doing Pre-Calculus in 9th grade, and we're not looking
  for him to graduate and go to college any earlier than his now-one-
  year-earlier graduation!)

  6) Some people think that there aren't enough problems for practice
  in the Elementary books. (This was sometimes a problem when I was
  a principal.)  In our homeschool, we have both the textbook and the
  workbook, and do a reasonable amount of problems each day only until
  a skill is mastered.  If something is forgotten, we dip back into
  previous chapter's problems on a very specific skill basis.  We know
  families that supplement from other Algebra books/workbooks or free
  online math sites.

  The only caveat to this is also Singapore's strength: Geometry is
  taught ALGEBRAICALLY, not as proof geometry.  In other words, geometry
  always has to do with measurements and real-world geometry, not the
  formal proofs of congruence which most of us learned in high school
  math.  We're planning on doing some proof geometry in a logic course
  either in 8th or 9th grade just so our son can get some practice
  writing proofs in mathematics as well as in prose.

  And while the solutions to the problems are in both the student and
  teacher books, the Solutions Manual has the problems *worked out*,
  which is a great help!  (My husband is a professor of Theoretical
  Chemistry -- i.e, a brilliant mathematician and chemist and physicist
  -- but even he gets stumped by a few of the challenge problems.) And
  I teach math with my husband as my backup." -- Patricia


  "General opinion about Singapore Math:

  We had been exposed to Saxon in the public school setting, and my
  kids, especially the oldest one, hated it.  He felt like it insulted
  his intelligence -- kind of 'I proved that I know this yesterday,
  and the day before, and last week, and last month -- why are you
  asking me yet AGAIN?'

  Singapore is much faster paced, and makes them use their brains.
  It includes multi-step word problems continuously, especially if you
  also buy the Intensive Practice books.

  Example: (I made this one up, so if the weights don't make sense,
  you know why)  This is the kind of problem they have in level 3A:

  A mango weighs 680 grams.  Two papaya of equal weight total 800
  grams.  How much more does the mango weigh than one papaya?

  It took a while for the oldest, who had made it half way through
  2nd grade in public school, to get used to using his brain to figure
  out how to do problems like that.  He wanted it spelled out -- 'a
  mango weighs 680 grams, a papaya weighs 400 grams.  How much more
  does the mango weigh?'  (They use lots of mangoes and papayas in
  Singapore Math -- we had to get some from the grocery store to try
  after doing so many math problems on them!)

  We have done levels 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A, and 3B.  We use the textbook,
  workbook, intensive practice, and I have the Home Instructor's guides.
  I'd say that unless you have a math teaching phobia, or a real problem
  with math, that the home instructor's guides are not worth the expense
  for the first several levels -- at least for 1B (and I'm assuming 1A),
  2A, and 2B.  Most of what is covered are basic math operations up to
  1000 for adding and subtracting, and the 2, 3, 4, 5, and 10's for
  multiplying and dividing.  Very simple fractions (I think to 1/4),
  shapes, telling time to 5 minutes, weighing, measuring, volume --
  things like that.  The Home Instructor's Guides have suggestions for
  games, but you can find games for these things anywhere.  It has
  explanations, but sometimes the explanations have been so oddly put
  that they confused me, much less the kids.

  Now at about 3A/3B -- things do get a little harder.  If you were an
  average or below math student in school, or it has been a particularly
  long time since you took math, you might need the guides for help.
  But, the thing I used them for is that they include extra exercises
  in US units of measurement.

  It is an advanced math program.  In public school, with Saxon, my
  oldest (end of fall semester 2nd grade) was doing addition and
  subtraction problems such as 25 minus 8 -- or 34 plus 7.  He has a
  pretty good head for math, but we had to put him in 2A, because that
  is the kind of thing covered in 1B.  In 2A they were doing numbers
  up to 1000.  In 3A they did numbers up to 10,000 -- things like
  5,478 plus 2,932.  It also includes long sections on mental math,
  such as the fastest way to make a number up to 100.

  Use of Metric in Singapore Math:

  Singapore Math is used in a country that only uses metric.  They use
  Dollars, 1 cent, 10 cent, 25 cent, and 50 cent coins.  Their bills
  come in basically the same as ours as well.  I can't remember where
  it is, if it was in the coins or the bills, but somewhere they use
  a different one than we do.  It may be that they use a 25 dollar bill
  instead of 20.  But the kids get plenty of practice in American
  sounding money -- no pounds, shillings, pence, whatever, thankfully.

  But for measurement and volume they use metric.  Now, I actually want
  my kids to be very fluent in metric, because I have studied metric
  and if I have to, I can kind of correlate between metric and US units.
  The way things are going, with all scientific and math related fields
  using almost exclusively metric, I want them to be fluent in it.  They
  are definitely getting that with Singapore.  They come to me all the
  time with things like 'Mom, mom, we saw a bug and it was 3 centimeters
  long!', 'I didn't take all the root beer; I only had a few milliliters
  in my glass!' -- things like that.

  If you buy the US Edition of Singapore, it will include some exercises
  specifically on US units.  In fact, in the measurement and volume
  sections, the 2 systems are pretty equally represented.  The main
  reason my kids are picking up the metric faster than they are the US,
  is because every example in the rest of the book is in metric --
  just like the example I gave.  Now, of course, when we do anything
  here at home that involves measurement of volume, we do it in US
  measurements, so they are learning them both, and when it comes to
  the things we do together I never get metric from them.  'How many
  cups of flour do I put in?', 'How many miles to grandmas house?',
  'How many inches tall am I?'

  The Instructor's Guide includes extra practice in US measurement
  starting in either 3A or 3B; I can't remember which at the moment.
  Between the two boys, we had both going at the same time, so I don't
  remember which it started in.

  I bought mine from Best EduSource.

  They have free shipping deals." -- Juanita


  "Singapore Math:

  This was designed to be taught by trained math teachers in Singapore
  schools. Due to high scores on international exams, the curriculum
  gained worldwide recognition.  The publishers started selling to the
  public.  When used in the way it is intended to be used and the way
  it is taught in schools in Singapore, students would typically
  complete daily drill sheets prior to starting a lesson and then work
  through the course book lesson.  Then they would complete the workbook
  activities and be given extra practice sheets and more challenging
  word problems for homework. They would also do a weekly test of their
  basic facts. It is typical for Singaporean children to do up to an
  hour of study plus extra math tutoring after school from a VERY young
  age, sometimes as young as 7 or 8.  It is also typical for children
  not to start school until they are 7, which is why the curriculum
  introduces abstract principles early; their students are typically
  older and more developmentally ready at this grade level than ours.

  Unfortunately I was not aware of this when I was using Singapore Math
  -- so it was not a success for us.

  Based on my experiences with Singapore Math, here are what I consider
  to be the Pros and Cons:

  PROS: Very visual, using pictures to illustrate all new concepts in
  the early stages; not much workbook work each day, well respected,
  teaches children not to rely solely on counting and memorization to
  solve problems as it incorporates abstract problem solving techniques.
  For a naturally mathematically inclined student, this curriculum is
  brilliant.  In grades K - 3 my kids loved it, but beyond this it got
  too abstract for us.

  CONS: Not much repetition or review, requires many books for each
  grade level but doesn't tell you this in the course book or in the
  student workbooks -- OR that the schools it was designed for
  actually use numerous extra support materials such as daily drill
  sheets and daily homework over and above what is in the course
  books and workbooks in order to provide a full math curriculum.
  It is fast moving -- about a grade level ahead of most. No teacher
  instructions on how to teach concepts as it is directed at a trained
  math teacher. Uses different methodology than traditional curriculums
  which is difficult to teach in upper elementary if you are not well
  versed in it and are not VERY math literate. Great in the early
  years for parent teachers but not so good later on. Mastery-based,
  but without daily review of previously learned concepts. EG: they
  may focus on a new concept for 6 weeks -- then not again until the
  next year.

  This curriculum introduces abstract theory VERY EARLY, alongside
  the basic 4 functions. Never having been strong in math, I found
  it beyond my mathematical abilities to teach it from 5th grade
  onwards and my children never really memorized their basic addition,
  subtraction, multiplication or division facts with this curriculum.
  Some of the word problems at 5th grade level required my husband
  to use his college level algebra to solve, and had my father-in-law,
  (who is a math whiz and was an engineering lecturer at university
  for many years) often left muttering about the level of difficulty
  after trying to help my son understand the Singapore approach to
  word problems (Although the curriculum does not expect the children
  to use algebra to solve word problems as it has it's own visual
  techniques that are used to solve word problems at this level).  I
  was constantly having to look up the answers in the Home Instructors
  Manual and work backward -- and even then I often didn't understand
  what to do or how they got the answer.

  To be a full and complete math curriculum (as it was designed to
  be for Singapore schools) you would need the following:

  Student course books
  Student workbooks
  Teacher's Manual or Home Instructor's Manual
  Extra Practice Drill sheets
  Challenging Word Problems practice book

  For EVERY grade level.

  If one does want to use Singapore Math then it is best to start out
  with it in the beginning, from K (age 6 or 7), and continue right
  through -- as switching to Singapore beyond 2nd or 3rd grade is
  extremely dificult due to the unique way it is taught and the unique
  methods used in problem solving.  The grade levels used in Singapore
  differ with those in the US -- consider them about 1 year ahead.
  Singapore Grade 1 = US grade 2.

  There is a Singapore Math Yahoo support group for those using the
  curriculum and it has experienced teachers on board." -- Nina


  "We really enjoyed Singapore Math for the elementary grades.  I like
  how it teaches the kids to 'think' about math.  Unfortunately, about
  5th grade I began to really struggle with teaching some of the concepts
  to my oldest.  We continued to struggle through 6th grade and then
  used Math-U-See Pre-Algebra -- which we liked -- and this year used
  Teaching Textbooks Algebra, which we also really like.

  So I would say if you are math-oriented at all go with Singapore, but
  if not, Teaching Textbooks would be a great choice if you can afford
  it!" -- Amy in CO


  Do you have comments to share?  Please do!
  Send your emails to:  mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net

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      Helpful Tip

  "For extra practice with addition and subtraction, try these sites:


  The top one is great and the others we have found helpful, as well."
  -- Margy


  Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share?  Please write!
  Send to:  mailto:HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

      Resource Review

  The Young Man's Handybook - Preparing Your Son On the Homefront
  Author: Gail Kappenman and Martha Greene
  Publisher: Greene Acres Publications

  For more information or to order:  marmeedear.com

  As the mom of two boys, I'm always on the lookout for books to
  teach them the skills they will need in life.  I'm the only woman
  in this house and it is easy for me to do my chores and forget
  that my boys may live on their own someday without a woman to do
  their laundry, mending, cooking and cleaning!  Written directly
  to the young man in your life, The Young Man's Handybook covers
  all the basic knowledge needed to be a bachelor and a great

  The 183-page guide is written for boys ages 9 - 15  and includes
  over 50 recipes, basic sewing and laundry skills, manners, how to
  tie a tie, gardening, home repair, budgeting, basic woodworking,
  and more.  There is such a wealth of practical information included
  in this one book!  I love how the lessons are written directly to
  the student, and everything is presented very clearly. In addition
  to skills needed around the home, there is also a section for
  'country boys' dealing with camping, fishing, hiking, and tying
  knots.  If you have a young man in your home, I encourage you to
  check out this incredibly practical resource.

  -- Cindy Prechtel, http://www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

      Last Issue's Reader Question

  "I wonder if anyone could recommend any inexpensive (or even free)
  home school placement tests that I could administer to check my
  children's progress?  I would like to discover any 'gaps' that they
  might have in their learning to this point.  Thanks!" -- Jo W.

      Our Readers' Responses 

  "'Filling the gaps' is highly overrated.  There is a *huge* knowledge
  base, and nobody can possibly know all of it!
  Let's take a single example of social studies -- there are approxi-
  mately 200 countries in the world.  To study each of them in 12 years
  of schooling would mean that each one would be covered in 2 weeks;
  certainly no depth could be achieved in that period of time.  Imagine
  learning American history and geography in 2 weeks!
  So, obviously you have to choose what subjects you will cover and
  what information you will study in each of them.  Once you have
  decided this, why would you want to see how well your children have
  learned what someone *else* (who doesn't even know your children)
  thinks should be important to you?" -- Brandel


  "I have used a modified CAT test, from Seton Homeschool (~$25), to
  assess my son's progress for 2nd - 4th grade.  I stopped because I
  saw that if I wasn't teaching the same topics that are on the test, it
  would appear that he wasn't 'up to par', when, in fact, he just
  learned other material.  Just keep in mind the limits of standardized

  I also 'found' the Texas Education Agency's released tests and answers
  to assess my now 5th grade son's reading and comprehension at home
  (free).  Giving these to my son has highlighted a need in my son's
  reading/comprehension skills that I didn't know was there.

  Here's the address:


  I found this helpful -- I hope you do too.  

  I have found many helpful links and sites in Homeschooler's Notebook;
  it is very likely that I found this link here too -- Thank you,
  Homeschooler's Notebook!" -- Tricia from NH


  "The Texas TKS test:


  Keep in mind that these tests are designed for standards set for the
  state of Texas.
  An inexpensive test that you can administer is the PASS (Personalized
  Achievement Summary System for Grades 3 through 8) from Hewitt
  Homeschool Resources.  The current price is $35 + S&H.

  Have you considered having a portfolio evaluation instead of a
  test?  Through your local State homeschool organization you can
  find a certified teacher that is homeschool friendly, and many
  times is an actual homeschooler.  The evaluator will normally
  interview you and ask a lot of questions regarding your approach
  to homeschooling and goals, the resources used, and your personal
  assessment.  They will look over your portfolio - usually a sample
  of what your child has done during the school year.  Then they
  interview your child and/or test a particular area of concern.
  Based on all this the evaluator will discuss with you what they
  feel are the strengths and challenges of your homeschooling program,
  your child's progress, and needs.  If you strive to prepare your
  child to reenter public or private school, or to eventually enter
  college and/or you want to be sure you meet state standards, a
  homeschool evaluator will provide an assessment and recommendations
  to help you achieve these goals.  Most evaluators keep abreast of
  curriculums, and may even make a few suggestions on material that
  will help you achieve your goals, or help with a challenge your
  program has.
  I've been homeschooling for 16 years, and never tested our children.
  Our youngest son is current taking dual enrollment classes, and
  the only tests he has ever taken have been the CPT (college placement
  test) to get placed in the dual enrollment class, and last Sunday
  he took the SAT.  Tests really don't tell you much and can be a
  source of anxiety for both you and your child. I'm also a substitute
  teacher in the public school system and I can tell you how teachers
  actually teach to the exam.  I question the actual results.
  Unfortunately homeschoolers have started to do the same thing. Many
  will start around February or March to prepare their children for
  such and such a test.  The only real purpose a test can have for
  a young child might be placement.  Normally these tests are designed
  and published by a curriculum supplier for placement in a particular
  As far as gaps, every program has gaps because it is impossible to
  cover everything!  Just look at the different standards each state
  has, compare and contrast them, to each other or to some national
  I exhort you to determine your own goals for your child; these
  become your standards.  You of course can try also to align them
  with (and most likely exceed) those of the state.  I do this for
  high school since our children will eventually compete for scholar-
  ships and grants for college.  Once you determine your end goals
  you can work backward to determine the road you need to take to
  reach those goals.  Gaps then are determined by reaching or failing
  to reach those goals.  Periodically revise and check your goals
  and standards and the path you are on.
  Best wishes and much success on your homeschool journey."
  -- Judy A. in FL


  "Hi, Jo –- The state of Texas offers several of their tests
  online for free download, and some of them are also available
  for taking online (you still have to do the scoring yourself).
  I've used several of them with my kids and they seem pretty
  thorough. Here’s the link:


  Hope this helps!" –- Mandi in SC


  "Hi Jo -- Alpha-Omega offers placement tests that you can download.
  I think I may have downloaded mine this past year.  It is free!


  Take care." -- Janet


  "There is a great book by Robin Scarlata, 'What Your Child Needs
  to Know When'
, that lists what is appropriate for each grade level.

  It is a valuable resource in looking for 'gaps'." -- Karen C.

     Answer our NEW Question

  "Hi -- I'm the mom of an almost 4 year old.  I'm pretty certain
  homeschooling makes sense for my son, but my husband is against it.
  Do your readers have any advice for convincing a anti-homeschooling
  spouse?  Thanks." -- Kobie


  Do have any wisdom or practical suggestions for Kobie? 

  Please send your answer to:  mailto:HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

     Ask YOUR Question

  Do you have a question you would like our readers to answer?

  Send it to mailto:HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
  if we can help you out in a future issue!

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  there to serve and share their wisdom... or just offer a listening
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