Jeff Bezos teaches his kids maths with a strategy that's made Chinese and Singaporean students the best in the world

CEO of Amazon.com, Inc. Jeff Bezos. Photo: Getty Images.
  • Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos use an approach called Singapore maths to teach their kids mathematics.
  • It’s used predominantly in South Asia.
  • Singaporean students outperformed those from all other countries on a maths exam in 2015.

Jeff Bezos, the Amazon CEO and richest person in the world, has amassed his wealth by being creative and trying unorthodox ways of solving problems.

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

“We tried all sorts of things … Mandarin lessons, the Singapore maths program, and lots of clubs and sports with other neighbourhood kids,” MacKenzie Bezos told Vogue.

Learning a second language has been found to have educational benefits, and team activities help create well-adjusted kids. But what exactly is the Singapore maths program?

Singapore maths, also known as the “mastery approach,” is a method of teaching mathematics that’s most 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.

In Shanghai schools that use the method, students aren’t grouped by their perceived intellectual abilities. Instead, all students perform the same work at the same time before mastering the concept and advancing to the next one together.

By contrast, US schools teach maths using the “mindset approach,” which aims to teach students a more intuitive understanding of maths concepts by starting with a broader concept before breaking down a 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 wrote.

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 at which students learned maths skills.

And on the 2015 PISA — a worldwide exam that tests 15-year-olds’ maths, science, and reading skills — Singapore was the top-performing country in each subject.

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