WASHINGTON: About a decade ago, a small number of made-in-Singapore maths textbooks began circulating among frustrated American parents looking for better ways to teach the subject.
Now, these textbooks are used in about 1,200 United States elementary schools, with annual sales of about 100,000 copies.
Building on this growing popularity, representatives from Singapore's Education Ministry and publisher Marshall Cavendish were at the Singapore Embassy on Tuesday evening to launch a treatise on the thinking behind the textbooks.
'We know that the US has always been interested in (Singapore's way of teaching) mathematics, so with the monograph being written, we decided we would come here to officially launch it and take the opportunity to explain a bit about the differences between our curriculum' and that of America, said Madam Low Khah Gek, director of the ministry's curriculum planning and development division.
Sceptics have often questioned the relevance of the Singaporean model to the US, particularly given the differences in the size and culture of the countries and their education systems.
The population of Singapore, for instance, is only slightly bigger than that of Los Angeles, the largest city in the state of California.
But exploratory studies by US maths academics have found over the years that students in the US who adopt the Singapore model, together with the right training for teachers and some tweaks to fit the local context, have outperformed their peers who stuck with US textbooks.
Interest in the Singaporean textbooks grew further in late 2007, when California endorsed their use for elementary schools statewide.
Elementary schools in states such as Massachusetts, New Jersey and Wisconsin are also said to be using the textbooks.
'This is quite a change in the US,' said Dr Alan Ginsburg, director of policy and programme studies services at the US Department of Education, when he spoke at the Singapore Embassy on Tuesday.
'Ten years ago, you would not see the US looking outwards. That has changed.'
President Barack Obama also drew attention to Singapore's model in a recent speech on educational reform, remarking: 'In 8th grade math, we have fallen to 9th place. Singapore's middle-schoolers outperform ours three to one.'
Ms Duriya Aziz, publisher and deputy general manager of Marshall Cavendish, said growing interest means US sales of the Singaporean textbooks should grow 'exponentially'.
CHUA CHIN HON
[So Singapore sells China on Governance Singapore Style and US on Mathematics the Singapore Way. Things like these make me prooud. Then of course Singapore's poor status in customer service, graciousness, courtesy make me embarrassed. ]