The Lower School uses Math in Focus as its approach to mathematics. Developed as Singapore Math in the 1980s, Math in Focus, Singapore Math’s American counterpart, is a precise framework of concepts and skills that are taught concretely, pictorially and abstractly. The program is designed to help students build conceptual understanding through a focus on problem solving. It is a mastery program that addresses fewer topics, but in greater depth, at each grade level. In addition, the program is closely aligned with the Common Core Standards and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Principles and Standards.
One of the advantages for us in the use of Math in Focus is that it meshes with the conceptual metaphor already used by Lower School teachers to structure math lessons: the metaphor of the three-legged stool. In this metaphor the first leg of the stool is understanding of concepts and ideas. The second leg is facility with the problem-solving strategies and habits of mind needed to do mathematical work, including persistence (learning how to get unstuck), taking time for problems (leaving one and coming back to it) and flexibility (acquiring a repertoire of problem-solving strategies and using them flexibly). The third leg is familiarity with conventional knowledge related to mathematics and mathematical notation, as well as fluency with computational algorithms. At each level, the goals of the program address both independent and cooperative work and include the following: readiness for future work and higher-level thinking for all students; opportunities for extra practice and extension of concepts; opportunities to "just do math" for its own sake and for fun; and opportunities for teachers to focus on and work with individuals and small groups.