Singapore students are renowned for their high performance in mathematics compared to their global peers. For instance, in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2019, students from Singapore were ranked second in the world in terms of mathematical ability. Our students’ track record of mathematical excellence has persisted throughout the decades, in terms of both performance in Cambridge examinations as well as in math competitions such as the International Mathematical Olympiad.
Mathematics is a subject that requires good teachers who can convey abstract ideas in a concrete, relatable manner through the use of well-crafted explanations, illustrations, and examples. In Singapore, our Ministry of Education has devised a unique math curriculum that builds up each concept layer by layer, and which also deploys powerful methods of visualization such as the usage of boxes and models. Our Singapore math curriculum is a blend of rigour and depth, effective drilling through practice and repetition, as well as good visualization techniques that renders abstract concepts concrete, easily understandable, and most importantly, interesting and exciting.
Another possible reason for the success of our students in mathematics is the willingness of parents to seek help, in the form of tuition for example, whenever the student encounters difficulty. This is particularly crucial for mathematics, which requires students to thoroughly grasp simpler concepts first before moving on to a higher one. Early intervention is vital in keeping students on track with regards to their mathematical learning. In the 2019 Pisa assessment, the only other country that beat Singapore in terms of math was China, which perhaps not too coincidentally has a vibrant private tuition culture that complements classroom instruction.
In short, seeking help early for students is of particular importance in mathematics, regardless of the students’ level, whether primary, secondary, JC, or university. It is reasonable to assume that good tutors have contributed to Singapore students’ world renowned success in mathematics.