TODAY   |  May 02, 2011

Parents go back to school, learn math

TODAY’s Natalie Morales reports on “Singapore math,” a new technique that third-grade students and their parents are learning, which uses visual models to help solve problems.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> this morning on education nation the class of 2020 , our special series where we are following a group of students from the first day in kindergarten to high school fwraj wags. the parents have helped the kids learn addition, subtraction and multiplication tables . this year in third grade the tables have turned and the parents are now having to go back to school to learn new tricks.

>> so today we're going to look at three models. subtraction only.

>> the teacher is ready to start math, eileen 's favorite subject in school.

>> what's first? math?

>> first we like to do multiplication, a math workout.

>> reporter: first there are visual aids called linker cubes. it's all part of a technique known as singapore math . so much of elementary school math is based on memorization, remembering combinations of numbers. in singapore math equations are presented visually with bar models or linker cubes, giving students a chance to use deductive reasoning to solvele a problem. singapore math includes many things. mental math , place value, mental flexibility with math. but the bulk of it is the idea of modeling. and that is that the children have something to hold onto like what we call manipulative in math.

>> students make the transition from counting cubes to solving complex equations. i took three squares away.

>> teaching the singapore math method to students is only the first step.

>> the idea is so that you and i are on the same page.

>> reporter: at the beginning of the year she asked parents to go back to school for a math lesson of their own. what do they think about this?

>> the parents are funny. at first they look puzzled when i explain this to them. then by little they go, oh, i get it. i wish i had that.

>> reporter: eileen 's mom was one of the first to sign up for the class. you're doing math nights as parents. how is that taking a lesson for eileen 's future?

>> in the beginning it was odd.

>> reporter: with eileen and mom on the same page, homework is easier and more fun.

>> it helped me on how to help her do her homework. sometimes i would tell her this is how you do it. then it wouldn't make sense to her because it was different from how her teacher told her to do it.

>> reporter: how important is it to be in synch with the parents so you say, here is your homework and at home the parents can help them?

>> it's huge. that's why i do it. you've got to be -- parent and teacher have to be on the same page.

>> where is the part you want to anyway?

>> reporter: for eileen the singapore math method is opening a new window into the world of math and more importantly, keeping her interested. is math your favorite subject now?

>> yeah.

>> i learned a lot. studies have shown foreign students who learn the techniques score higher on tests than native american students than american students. you can always follow the class of 2020 on today.com. coming