BWF Launches Singapore Math Pilot in North Carolina

3 May 2011

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C.--The Burroughs Wellcome Fund Board of Directors approved grants totaling $1.2 million to be payable over six years to support elementary schools in North Carolina as they integrate Singapore mathematics strategies into their curricula.
The Singapore Math Pilot is a partnership between the State Board of Education, the Department of Public Instruction, and BWF. 
Receiving grants are Eastfield Global Magnet School (McDowell County), Gallberry Farm Elementary School (Cumberland), Murphey Traditional Academy (Guilford), and North Wilkesboro Elementary School (Wilkes).  Also receiving a grant is the Bladen County School District for Elizabeth Primary School and East Arcadia School.
“Math is absolutely critical in our daily lives and in our society,” said BWF President Dr. John E. Burris.  “It is the foundation of science.  It is clear that in the years to come math will become even more important in aiding in scientific discovery.”
The Singapore math method is a pedagogical strategy developed by a team of curriculum specialists in the Singapore Ministry of Education in the early 1980’s to address the issue of students having difficulty with word problems in early years of school. It has since become a distinguishing feature of the Singapore primary mathematics curriculum. Using this method, students represent the information in the problem pictorially using bars to represent numbers. The model shows explicitly the problem structure, the known and unknown quantities, and provides a visual tool that enables students to determine what operations to use to solve the word problems.  Singapore math became popular after the release of scores from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Studies (TIMSS) first in 1995, and later in 1999, 2003 and 2007 that showed Singapore at the top of the world in 4th and 8th grade mathematics.
The BWF has helped fund study visits to Singapore by key North Carolina education policymakers and stakeholders on two separate occasions.  The outcomes of these study visits have demonstrated a need to improve 1) the quality of professional development for teachers in North Carolina, 2) the quality of STEM education preparation for students, 3) alignment of education values among policymakers and the community at large, and 4) focus on a vision for educational advancement, particularly in science and mathematics.  Many members of the study teams, having seen the impact of Singapore math on student performance outcomes, supported incorporating this quality of learning into North Carolina schools.
A controlled research study of the SMP will be conducted by Metametrics to assess student outcome math performance data.  Teacher training will be conducted by the Staff Development for Educators.

Media contact:  Russ Campbell,