Early Intervention of Malay Preschool Teachers in Promoting Children’s Mathematics Learning

  • Pamela SharpeEmail author
  • Sirene Lim
Part of the Education Innovation Series book series (EDIN)


The underperformance of Singaporean Malay children in mathematics, compared to their Chinese and Indian peers, is well documented. This is despite their above average international scores, reported in the 2003 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) where Malay children are ranked fifth, equal with Japan for mathematics (Teo CH. Teo Chee Hean, (Rear-Admiral), Minister for Education’s Keynote Address at the Second Malay Activity Executive Committee Co-ordinating Council (MESRA) National Education Seminar, Sat, 15 Dec 2006, 2006). However, the reality is that these children do not compete on the international stage on a day-to-day basis but rather with children in their own schools and classrooms where relative failure can and does lead to underperformance. In the 10 years prior to 2009 when the study reported in this chapter was conducted, the pass rate for Malay children in mathematics in the Singapore Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) actually declined from 63.4% in 1999 to 56.3% in 2009 (The Straits Times. Ten-year report shows slide in Malays’ PSLE maths grades. Retrieved from, 2009). It is this relative underperformance that was a major concern for Yayasan MENDAKI and the wider community. International research shows the importance of high-quality preschool mathematics education for subsequent mathematics development. No such research exists, however, for Malay preschool settings in Singapore, and this was the general research problem addressed by this study. This research, then, addressed an urgent problem of stakeholders. Its overriding concern was to provide these stakeholders with sound guidance on how to improve the quality of Singaporean Malay preschool teachers’ knowledge of children’s developing numeracy skills in order to improve the numeracy performance of Singaporean Malay preschool children. The research was conducted solely with Malay children with no comparisons made with other ethnic groups. It was not possible to follow up the performance of the children in primary school, although the teachers of the experimental group children were consulted about the lasting effects of the intervention on their subsequent understanding of how children become numerate and their current teaching strategies for Kindergarten mathematics.



This chapter makes use of data from the research project ‘Early Intervention of Malay Preschool Teachers in Promoting Children’s Mathematics Learning’ (OER1/08SW), funded by the Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice, National Institute of Education, Singapore ( The authors gratefully acknowledge funding from the Office of Education Research, NIE and Yayasan MENDAKI. The views expressed in this chapter are the authors’ and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centre or the Institute.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Independent ResearcherNIE, NTUSingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.S.R. Nathan School of Human DevelopmentSingapore University of Social SciencesSingaporeSingapore

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