Arts + Maths = new way to learn

SINGAPORE - This is how some learn fractions at Haig Girls' School: Pupils form groups. They then break into smaller groups depending on a fraction the teacher calls out.

So, say the teacher wants a group of 12 to split into half, each group would "dance" away to form two groups of six.

"For students not as good at understanding abstract terms, getting them to act it out and experience it fully will help them understand better," said principal Constance Loke.

The Katong school is one of nine that have tried out a new artistic learning approach for non-arts subjects.

Such curricula are part of a 2012 initiative called Teaching Through the Arts Programme (TTAP), spearheaded by the National Arts Council (NAC). It aims to cultivate a deeper understanding of non-arts concepts through artistic means.

"It is about activating the imagination in fun and creative ways that go beyond searching for a single right answer," said Mr Kenneth Kwok, NAC's director of arts and youth.

Schools are typically approached by the NAC based on criteria such as whether the staff are keen on using the arts as a teaching tool. Schools must also have a strong arts culture.

The NAC then matches selected schools to an arts educator, who works with teachers to devise lesson plans on subjects selected by schools. They may also conduct lessons together.

Under TTAP, NAC funds up to 80 per cent of artist fees per year for a maximum of two years. It hopes to work with two to three new schools each year.

One school in the programme is taking arts into history classes.

At Guangyang Secondary, Secondary 1 and 2 Normal (Academic) students use drama to study topics such as Sook Ching - the massacre that killed as many as 50,000 people during the Japanese occupation.

One lesson saw Secondary 2 students forming a line outside the music room. Before entering, some were given stamps by a teacher playing a Japanese officer, replicating the screening carried out during Sook Ching.

"Later, we asked students who did not receive the stamp to talk about their feelings, which helps them develop historical empathy," said Mr Christopher Ng, a Guangyang teacher who devised the lessons with drama educator Elvira Holmberg.

Bukit View Primary School is rolling out a drama-infused science lesson next month. And for the Haig Girls' pupils, maths class has never been more fun.

"It is a fun and unique way of learning maths," said Primary 5 pupil Anushka Ashirgade, 10.

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