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Singapore Math Conference Draws Teachers From Across the U.S.

July 22, 2008
By: Worcester State University News

After attending a recent week-long professional development conference at Worcester State College, Prema Vora, a sixth grade teacher from New York City, is counting the days until her school year begins.

This has gotten me even more excited because I feel I have learned a different way to teach, Vora said. I feel like I have a whole new repertoire of tools to use.  I have a lot of challenging problems to present to my students. I cant wait to get back in the fall.

Over the week of June 23, Vora, along with 27 other teachers from across the United States traveled to Worcester State College to attend Mathematics Department Chair Richard Bisk’s annual Singapore Math Summer Institute.

Bisk had the privilege of working with educators from all over the United States, coming from as far as Hawaii, Los Angeles, and New Orleans.  In past years Bisk’s conferences had been primarily attended by Massachusetts residents; however this time around, just three of the 28 were from the Commonwealth.

Since 2000, Bisk has been doing everything he can to make students interested in Math, working at length with K-12 teachers, providing professional development using the Singapore Math materials.

Singapore Math, which stresses learning concepts and understanding the material,  also devotes more time to each topic with fewer topics being covered during the year.

Although the week-long conference is meant to teach educators the philosophies of Singapore Math, one of the main goals is to make sure that they have a deeper understanding of the material that they are teaching, so that they can effectively present the subject matter to their students.

Strengthening your understanding will help you to be more effective as a teacher. This program provides a supportive, yet challenging environment for professionals working together, said Bisk.

Francis A. I. Varga, a preschool teacher from New Jersey, is looking forward to answering the age old question that most math students have.

This was for us to understand why we do this, Varga said.  Were often told as students that this is why we do it this way and that’s it.  But with Singapore Math, it answers the question why.

Many of the teachers in attendance found Bisk through the Internet.

I was looking to research more about Singapore Math and I Googled it and Professor Bisk’s class came up, said Tracey Carter, a third grade teacher from Chicago.

Jean Wiley, an elementary school teacher from Michigan, drove 17 hours to learn about Singapore Math and couldn’t have been happier with everything about her experience at Worcester State.

Everything was wonderful, Wiley said. Dr. Bisk was very patient with all of our questions and the facilities here at Worcester State were very impressive.

Wiley was one of 22 students who stayed in the Wasleyan residence halls for the week.

The staff and police at Worcester State couldn’t have been more courteous, Wiley said.

Bob Appleyard, a special education teacher from Norwood, was the lone local teacher earning graduate credits this year.  He was impressed with Bisk and plans on spreading the word.

He (Bisk) has great content knowledge on the subject, Appleyard said.  I definitely will recommend this class to my colleagues. It really opens your eyes to the ways we should be teaching Math.

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