A Parent’s Guide to Singapore Math

What is Singapore Math?

Singapore Math is the generic name of the math curriculum or syllabus, textbooks, teaching approaches and strategies used in Singapore schools. With the astounding success of Singapore students in mathematics, people around the world began referring to Singapore’s math curriculum as simply “Singapore Math”.

Why are people interested in Singapore Math?

The TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) Report, an international assessment of students’ achievement in Math and Science, shows that Singapore has been number one worldwide since 1995.

What are the main features of Singapore Math?

1. The most important feature of Singapore Math is the use of model-drawing technique. It is a problem-solving technique wherein students use pictorial models. Students draw diagrams in which they represent the problem situations and relevant concepts using bars. Drawing bar models are a valuable tool for solving non-routine problems.  These problems might also be solved using Algebra, but for children in the grade school, a model approach can be preferable since it is less abstract.

2. Singapore Math gives emphasis on the development of strong number sense (e.g. use of number bonds and ten frames), mental-math skills, and a deep understanding of place value.

3. The curriculum is based on a progression from concrete experience to a pictorial stage and finally to the abstract level (also known as Informal and  Formal teaching approach).

4.  The Singapore approach focuses on developing  students to be problem solvers and creative thinkers.


How does Singapore Math compare with other Math programs?

1.   Singapore Math is a balance between drill and creative problem solving. Adopting schools that have used other programs think that the Singapore approach moves along to more abstract math concepts in a more rational way and, depending on the student’s pace, more quickly.  The method blends math basics with conceptual learning in a way that is easy for children to understand, educators say.

2.   Unlike in Philippine Basic Education Curriculum or American Math where topics are repeated year after year, Singapore math revisits the topics every year (not re- taught) but the curriculum builds on principles learned the previous year. Practice is not mere repetition.

3.   Many local textbooks emphasize breadth – more on quantity of concepts, terms and topics, rather than depth. In Singapore Math, concepts are taught to mastery.  It is said the Philippine curriculum is a mile wide and an inch deep, whereas Singapore’s math curriculum is said to be just the opposite.

4.   There is frequent use of word problems and the strategies towards solving them, rather than repetitive drilling.


What other schools in the country use Singapore math?

Some of the big schools that are known for having high student achievement in Math as evidenced by their outstanding performance in interschool math competitions use Singapore Math.  Some of them are as follows:  Ateneo de Manila, Xavier School, Uno High School, Immaculate Conception Academy (ICA Greenhills), Hope Christian School, and Don Bosco Cebu.

Recommended readings on Singapore Math:

“I often recommend that even if schools do not use Singaporean texts in the classroom, they should at least use them as references. These books, including the popular series, “My Pals are Here”, are among the best in the world.”

- Dr. Queena Lee-Chua, Eureka! Philippine Daily Inquirer

The Essential Parents Guide to Primary Maths by Dr. Fong Ho Kheong

Problem Solving by Dr. Ban Har Yeap

A Handbook for Mathematics Teachers in Primary Schools by Mrs. Juliana Huat


A Parent’s Guide to Singapore Math is written by Mrs. Darlene Tadeo, Math Subject Head, Grade School




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