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Why Singapore’s kids are so good at maths

The FT Magazine – Jeevan Vasagar

“A city-state of just 5.5 million people, Singapore is routinely ranked at or near the top in global comparisons of mathematical ability and boasts one of the most admired education systems in the world. In a league table based on test scores from 76 countries published by the OECD in May last year, Singapore came first, followed by Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. The rankings, based on testing 15-year-olds’ abilities in maths and science, reinforced a sense that western children were slipping behind their Asian peers. The UK was in 20th place and the US 28th in the table. At meetings of the world’s education ministers, when it is Singapore’s turn to speak, “everyone listens very closely”, says Andreas Schleicher, head of the OECD’s education assessment programme. Governments around the world have sought to incorporate elements of the “Singapore model” into their own approach to teaching maths and science. The latest is the UK, which earlier this month announced that half of England’s primary schools would adopt the style of maths teaching that is used in Singapore, with up to £41m in funding over four years to train teachers and provide new textbooks. But what is it about Singapore’s system that enables its children to outperform their international peers? And how easy will it be for other countries to import its success? .”(more)

For children with autism, multiple languages may be a boon

The Spectrum News – Ann Griswold

“The science — what little exists — in fact suggests that these children should embrace multilingualism. “There are few studies on bilingualism in children with developmental disorders, and even fewer with appropriate control groups,” says Napoleon Katsos, lecturer in linguistics at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. In typical children, learning a second or third language hones critical thinking and executive function — a set of skills that includes attention, self-control and mental flexibility2. It also gives them an edge in reading and writing3. Children with developmental delays might reap those same benefits. Bilingual children with autism have language skills on par with monolingual children with the condition, and they acquire social and cognitive skills at the same rate4,5,6. But these children are twice as likely as monolingual children with autism to use gestures such as pointing when they communicate, according to a 2012 study. This finding suggests that they have a strong command of joint attention and are adept at nonverbal communication.'”(more)

Can simple games make kids better at math?

E-School News – Laura Devaney

“Kindergartners participating in a Johns Hopkins study demonstrated increased math performance after exercising their intuitive number sense with a computer game. “Math ability is not static—it’s not the case that if you’re bad at math, you’re bad at it the rest of your life. It’s not only changeable, it can be changeable in a very short period of time,” said Jinjing “Jenny” Wang, a graduate student in the Krieger School of Arts and Science’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. “We used a five-minute game to change kids’ math performance.” Humans and animals are born with an intuitive sense of quantities and can demonstrate this knowledge as infants, researchers said. For instance, when presented with a choice between a plate with a few crackers and another with more of them, even a baby will gravitate to the option with more. This intuition about number is called the ‘approximate number system.'”(more)

Girls less confident as they grow older, says Girlguiding

BBC – Judith Burns

Girls’ career confidence plummets as they near the world of work, suggests research by Girlguiding. A poll of 1,627 girls and young women showed they felt less powerful as they progressed through secondary school. Only a third of the 17- to 21-year-olds questioned felt they would do as well as their male peers, against 90% of the nine- to 10-year-olds. “It is our responsibility to change this,” said Girlguiding Chief Executive Julie Bentley. The young women interviewed were a representative sample and not necessarily connected with Girlguiding, says the charity.”(more)

Doctor’s Notes: Parents, barriers to fitness and fun are surmountable

The Toronto Star – Nancy Quinn

Most children with different abilities want to play more sports or be more active, but only about half of these kids currently take part in physical education class. Studies show that success on the playing field or at the playground can lead to greater success educationally and socially — and sports can have a major positive impact on quality of life. Clearly, we need to do better. Finding the right program that suits your children’s interests and needs can take research and effort. But parents, please do not despair. There are many resources available in Ontario that provide children with different abilities the opportunity to be physically active and play sport. People are actively working to improve access and opportunity to these resources for you and your child. Language is a powerful tool and can improve access and opportunity for children with different abilities. “Disability” or “disabled” implies a lack of ability, while “different ability” affirms ability, and the children that I am speaking of are extremely able.”(more)