Jeff Bezos teaches his kids math with a strategy that's made Chinese and Singaporean students the best in the world - but the US won't adopt

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jeff bezos Brendan McDermid/Reuters American schools don't teach math the same way.

  • Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie use Singapore math to teach their kids mathematics.
  • It's an approach used predominantly in South Asia.
  • Singapore outperformed all other countries on a worldwide math exam.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and richest person in the world , has amassed his wealth by being creative and trying out unorthodox solutions to problems.

It seems he and his wife MacKenzie use the same approach for their children's education.

"We tried all sorts of things ... Mandarin lessons, the Singapore math program, and lots of clubs and sports with other neighborhood kids," MacKenzie told Vogue.

Learning a second language has been proven to offer educational benefits, and team activities help to create well-adjusted kids. But what exactly is the Singapore math program MacKenzie mentioned?

Singapore math is an approach to teaching mathematics in schools called the "mastery approach." It's particularly prevalent in Shanghai, China, and Singapore.

Under the mastery approach, students learn a specific concept before moving on to more complex ideas, in a rigidly linear progression, Alexei Vernitski , a senior lecturer at the University of Essex, wrote in The Conversation.

When using the mastery approach in Shanghai, students aren't broken into separate groups depending on their perceived intellectual abilities. Instead, students all perform the same work at the same time before mastering and advancing to the next concept together.

By contrast, US schools teach math using the "mindset approach," which aims to teach students to have a more intuitive understanding of math concepts and starts with a broader concept before breaking down a math problem into the specific steps for solving.

For example, "A mindset-approach teacher can introduce addition via joining two heaps of cardboard counters (or other props) together, explore properties of addition via activities, and only then break the process of adding numbers into procedural steps," Vernitski explained.

A 2015 study of 140 schools in the UK by the UCL Institute of Education and Cambridge University found that the mastery approach improved the speed with which students learned math skills.

And on the 2015 PISA - a world-wide exam that tests 15-year-old in math, science, and reading - Singapore was the top-performing country in each subject.

Though unconventional in American schools, the Bezos family could be giving their kids an advantage in math.

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