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Smart Students + Smart Schools = Smart Nation

March 15, 2016

Should U.S. students live in a Smart Nation?  Currently, Singapore is on their way to becoming the first nation in the world to be a “Smart Nation”.


Singapore likes to be first and rank first.  For more than 20 years now, Singapore has consistently ranked first (or near first) in mathematics and science.  While waiting at the airport  last week, my CNN app sent me an alert that Singapore is now first on the list of the World’s 10 Most Expensive Cities To Live In1.  Being first or being in first place seems to be part of their DNA.

Singapore’s government, through their office of The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), wants to make the country the world’s first true Smart Nation2.  Their slogan is “E3A”: Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, All the time.  What makes a nation “Smart”? – Technology.

Like most developed countries, Singapore has big problems. Transportation problems, population problems, security problems, healthcare problems and many others and they are convinced that technology is the pathway that will enable them to develop and grow infrastructures and technology capabilities to help its citizens, businesses, and government solve their nation’s problems.

How is math class related to all this?  Well, a Smart Nation needs Smart Students.  We need to make a distinction, “Smart” is not the same as “smart”.  Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, might argue that students can always grow “smarter”3.  In this context, a “Smart” student is a student who is able to use technology to innovate and solve problems.  A Smart Student uses logic and thinking skills through technology.  A Smart student surely gets smarter.

Those familiar with Singapore Math textbooks in the U.S. are also familiar with the Singapore Math’s Framework Pentagon that specifically has problem solving as the focus of mathematics instruction.  These students, with their teachers’ help are becoming smarter students and better problem solvers.  Incorporating technology to the math class can further develop these skills.

Singapore Math Framework

Recently in the news in Singapore, I read an article about young students signing up for coding workshops and classes offered by various companies4.  The goal is not to develop programmers but to train them in logic and clear thinking.  Becoming a programmer is not such a bad idea either and according to the App Economy (apparently a real term) more than 627,000 jobs5 have already been created and growing rapidly here in the U.S.  Parents in Singapore are sending their children in droves to these types of “enrichment” coding classes because they are recognizing two things: 1) technology is the present and future for their children and 2) developing logic and thinking skills directly benefits their current schoolwork.

Another important component in achieving a Smart Nation is the need for Smart Schools.  Learning in the 21st century demands technology.  School districts everywhere are planning and implementing these plans on improving and developing their technology infrastructures.  However, having high-tech alone is not enough.  Schools everywhere are reimagining teaching by using technology.  One such impressive initiative can be found in New York State’s “NY Smart Schools Commission Report”6  The Keys to Success for Achieving a Smart School is very helpful and critical is key number 5: Provide high-quality, continuous professional development to teachers, principals, and staff to ensure successful integration of technology into the teaching and learning experience.  Is your school a Smart School?

U.S. schools across the country have made significant infrastructure upgrades.  It was rare only a few years ago to see schools that had more than just a few computer workstations in the classrooms.  Soon after that, carts of iPads or Chromebooks became normal.  Now students bring their own mobile devices.  However, in many places there is a sense that students are and have been ready for Smart Schools for a while now and we are the ones trying to catch up.  For example, I recently visited a school in Texas that was using Math Buddies (a Marshall Cavendish Education digital program) and I was blown away by how fluid they were in their ability to multitask between talking and helping each other, using paper and pencil to do scratch work, dragging and dropping on screen, typing and giving each other high-fives because they solved a problem correctly. A Kindergarten teacher confessed that one surprising challenge had nothing to do with the program but with their hardware as her students had to be taught how to use a computer mouse because instinctively, her students wanted to just touch and swipe the screen to get the program to do what they wanted it to do.  In some cases, it is us, the adults who have to do the catching up.  Young students have been ready to be part of Smart Schools for a long while.

Personally, my own 13 year old son has recently shown interest in being part of a Hackathon.  Suspecting it might be some nefarious “-athon” I looked it up and realized that a hackathon is a marathon computer-programming competition.  Again, as an adult, I am the one needing to catch up.

The more Smart Students we have in our Smart Schools the closer we too are to becoming a Smart Nation.

Do you teach Smart Students?  Is your school a Smart School?  Do you teach in a Smart Math Class?  We’d love to hear about your experiences in the classroom with technology.  Be sure to leave a comment back at the LinkedIn blog area.  Share with us the amazing logic and thinking skills your students have demonstrated using tech.  Tell us a story about the Smart Students you work with.

Share your thoughts on this article or any other Singapore Math topic by joining our LinkedIn community.

By Hoover Herrera
Singapore Math® expert


  1. CNN app. (accessed on March 11, 2016)

  1. “IDA wants to make Singapore a Smart Nation. Here’s what you need to know”. Article author: Michael Tegos. (accessed on March 3, 2016)

  1. ”Even Geniuses Work Hard”. Author Carol S. Dweck (accessed on March 4, 2016)

  1. The Straits Times, Singapore. Author Lester Hio. (accessed on March 10, 2016)

  1. The Atlantic online newsletter. “The Secret Lives of Hackathon Junkies”. Author Meredith Broussard. (accessed on March 1, 2016)
  2. Smart Schools New York Commission. (accessed on March 11, 2016)