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Comparing the Common Core State Standards and Singapore’s Mathematics Syllabus

Comparing the Common Core State Standards and Singapore’s Mathematics Syllabus

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Published by Achieve, Inc.
As educators and policymakers review the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in mathematics, they will want to consider the way these new standards compare to, and build on, existing standards in mathematics. This brief describes the comparison between the CCSS and Singapore’s Mathematics Syllabus. (August 2010)
As educators and policymakers review the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in mathematics, they will want to consider the way these new standards compare to, and build on, existing standards in mathematics. This brief describes the comparison between the CCSS and Singapore’s Mathematics Syllabus. (August 2010)

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1775 Eye Street NW
Suite 410
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CommonCore
Achieving the
Comparing the Common Core State Standards andSingapore’s Mathematics Syllabus
Introduction
Through the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initiative, states and territories have collaborated in the development o acommon core o standards in English Language Arts and mathematics or grades kindergarten through twelve that are nowbeing adopted by states. Designed not only or the purpose o providing strong, shared expectations, the Common CoreState Standards will also allow adopting states to collectively create and share high-quality tools such as assessments, curri-cula, instructional materials (such as textbooks and sotware), and proessional development programs.As educators and policymakers review the CCSS in mathematics, they will want to consider the way these new standardscompare to, and build on, existing standards in mathematics. This brie describes the comparison between the CCSS andSingapore’s Mathematics Syllabus.
Common Core State Standards in Mathematics
The K-5 standards provide students with a solid oundation in whole numbers, addition, subtraction, multiplication, divi-sion, ractions and decimals—which help young students build the oundation to apply more demanding math concepts andprocedures successully, and move into applications. They also provide detailed guidance to teachers on how to navigatetheir way through knotty topics such as ractions, negative numbers, and geometry, and do so by maintaining a continu-ous progression rom grade to grade. Having built a strong oundation in K-5, students can move to more complex work ingeometry, algebra and probability and statistics in the middle grades to gain a rich preparation or high school mathematics.Students who have completed 7
th
grade and mastered the content and skills through the 7
th
grade will be well prepared oralgebra in grade 8. The high school standards call on students to practice applying mathematical ways o thinking to realworld issues and challenges; they prepare students to think and reason mathematically across the major strands o math-ematics, including number, algebra, geometry, probability and statistics. Note that the CCSS promote rigor not simply byincluding advanced mathematical content, but by requiring a deep understanding o the content at each grade level, andproviding sucient ocus to make that possible.The CCSS in mathematics lay out a vision or what all students need to master to be ready or credit-bearing college math-ematics courses without remediation. Some o the high school standards are designated by a (+), indicating that they areabove the college- and career-ready requirement but necessary or students to take advanced mathematics courses in highschool such as calculus, advanced statistics, or discrete mathematics, and to be prepared or Science, Technology, Engineer-ing, and Mathematics (STEM) coursework in college.
Singapore’s Mathematics Syllabus
Singapore’s students have consistently been high perormers, ranking rst in the world in mathematics on the Trends inInternational Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 2003. As a result, researchers have explored Singapore’s successulapproach to mathematics instruction to identiy eatures that could work in U.S. schools.
1
There are several components thataccount or Singapore’s success, including “a highly logical national mathematics ramework, mathematically rich problem-based textbooks, challenging mathematics assessments, and highly-qualied mathematics teachers.”
2
 
1
What the United States Can Learn From Singapore’s World-Class Mathematics System (and What Singapore Can Learn rom the United States)
: An Exploratory Study: American Institutes for Research, 2005
 
1
 
2
Ibid
 
 
CommonCore
Achieving the
 
1775 Eye Street NW
Suite 410
Washington, DC 20006
Phone (202) 419-1540
www.achieve.org © August 2010
CommonCore
Achieving the
Singapore’s mathematics ramework identies ve key aspects o mathematics learning as essential:Skills, such as estimation, mental calculation, arithmetic and algebraic manipulation, and handling o data;Numerical, geometrical, algebraic, and statistical concepts;Processes, or thinking skills;Metacognition, the monitoring o one’s own thinking; andAttitudes regarding mathematics, including interest, condence, and perseverance.The Mathematics Syllabus, which is a part o Singapore’s mathematics ramework,describes the primary content expectations or each level through topic lists,which are similar to standards. Details are dierentiated or students in dierentstreams, or academic tracks.
 All 
students will study content through what is calledthe O-Level. Students who wish to pursue university coursework study A-Levelmathematics. Because o its quality, the Singapore Syllabus was an importantresource or the developers o the CCSS.
Achieve’s Analysis
Achieve has analyzed the CCSS and the 2007 version o Singapore’s MathematicsSyllabus or the primary and secondary levels to determine how they compare interms o
rigor, coherence, and focus
.
Rigor
reers to the degree that sets ostandards address key content that prepares students or success beyond highschool.
Coherence
reers to whether the standards refect a meaningul structure,revealing signicant relationships among topics and suggest a logical progression o content and skills over the years.
Focus
reers to whether the standards suggest an appropriate balance in conceptual understanding, procedural skill, andproblem solving with an emphasis on application and modeling; the standards should be teachable within a school year (oracross our years o high school), and key ideas in a given grade or topic area should be clear. Standards that are rigorous,coherent, and ocused provide better guidance to educators, students, and parents about desired learning outcomesthan those that are not. Expert mathematics content analysts conducted a side-by-side comparison o the CCSS and theSingapore Mathematics Syllabus, looking particularly at the inclusion and treatment o mathematics topics at each gradelevel. This brie describes their ndings.
Major Findings
The CCSS and Singapore Mathematics Syllabus describe similar levels o rigor. Where grade placement discrepanciesoccur between the two documents, they are usually within one year o each other.The CCSS and the Singapore Mathematics Syllabus are comparable in their coherence and ocus, but there are a ewkey dierences, which result in the CCSS providing greater detail and specicity.2
More about Singapore’s O- andA-Levels:
The O-Level syllabi aretitled Secondary 1, Secondary 2,and Secondary 3/4, which areequivalent to Grades 7, 8, and 9-10in the U.S. Virtually all studentsin Singapore will take the O-Level exams, and 82% do well enoughto qualiy or junior college, whichculminates in the A-Level exams. About 30% o students go on to junior college, while about 40% go on to polytechnic schools ater completing the O-Level exams.
 
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Suite 410
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Phone (202) 419-1540
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CommonCore
Achieving the
Detailed Findings
Rigor 
The CCSS and the Singapore Mathematics Syllabus describe expectations o comparable rigor at each grade level. The twodocuments contain similar expectations or what students should know and be able to do by the end o grades 4 and 8. Inhigh school, though, the CCSS expect slightly more than the Singapore Mathematics Syllabus expects o all students.
Elementary grades:
Through the end o grade 4, the CCSS and the Singapore Mathematics Syllabus are compa-rable in rigor. For example, both documents require students completing grade 4 to be fuent at adding, subtract-ing, and multiplying with whole numbers; to understand and be able to apply place value; and to be able to classiysimple two-dimensional geometric gures. These expectations orm the basis or basic mathematical understandingin elementary school.
Middle grades:
There also are substantial similarities in the middle grades. Both documents include some o themajor hallmarks o algebra—proportionality, linear expressions and inequalities, and using equations and inequali-ties to solve real-lie and mathematical problems—which prepare students well or more advanced mathematics inhigh school. More specically, the CCSS contain much o the same content in Grade 8 that is ound in the SingaporeSecondary 2 expectations.
High school:
The CCSS compare avorably with Singapore’s secondary-level syllabus. The CCSS include nearly all othe topics ound in the Singapore Mathematics Syllabus through the end o the O-Level, which are the requirementsthat all students must meet, including solving quadratic equations and the graphs o exponential unctions, beoreadvancing to urther education and training. While the two documents describe similarly rigorous expectations, theCCSS cover some concepts not addressed in the Singapore Mathematics Syllabus or all students. When comparisonsare made between the CCSS that are beyond the college- and career-ready minimum (designated with a (+) symbol),and the Singapore A-Level standards (which are beyond the minimum expectations o all students in Singapore), theSingapore standards are somewhat more rigorous, as they describe content typically ound in a U.S. Calculus course,whereas the CCSS describe content up to that which is normally ound in a U.S. Pre-Calculus course. As a result,advanced mathematical content is more comprehensive in the Singapore standards than in the CCSS.
Coherence and Focus
Achieve’s analysis indicates that the Common Core State Standards and the Singapore Mathematics Syllabus share some keytraits o coherence and ocus. For example, both documents place a heavy emphasis on number concepts and skills in theprimary grades, in order to provide students with a solid oundation or work with more advanced content in later years.The expectations or each grade level are very similar in the two documents, and both describe coherent expectations thatbuild gradually rom the primary grades on. For example, both documents lay out a reasonable progression o addition, sub-traction, multiplication, and division with ractions by connecting them to measures such as length, as well as by addressingthem across grades our through seven. By grounding work with ractions in measurement, both sets o standards providestudents with the opportunity to grasp an otherwise elusive topic through more concrete means. Furthermore, by situatingthe progression o content across our grades, the CCSS and Singapore Mathematics Syllabus emphasize depth o learningwithout unnecessarily repeating content rom one year to the next.3

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