What is Singapore Math? by Anni Stipek, Singapore Math trainer
You may be wondering what Singapore Math is all about, and with good reason.
What you may not know is that Singapore has led the world in math mastery for
over a decade; its students become competent and proficient mathematicians at very
early ages. Even better, they grow to be capable problem solvers who think mathematically with ease. Wouldn’t it be nice if your child could enjoy the same success with math?
First, you need to know that Singapore Math takes a slightly different mathematical
approach than what you may be used to. It revolves around several key number‐
sense strategies: (1) building number sense through part‐whole thinking, (2)
understanding place value, and (3) breaking numbers into decomposed parts or
friendlier numbers, ones that are easier to work with in the four operations
(addition, subtraction, multiplication and division).
Second, Singapore Math does something dramatically different when it comes to
word problems. It relies on model drawing, which uses units to visually represent a
word problem. Students learn to visualize what a word problem is saying so they
can understand the meaning and thus how to solve the problem.
Third, we have mental math, which teaches students to calculate in their heads
without using paper and pencil. Sure, your child will still need to commit facts
to memory, but mental math will teach him or her to do calculations using proven
strategies that don’t require pencil and paper.
Fourth, the strategies taught in Singapore are layered upon one another. One
strategy is the foundation for another one. For example, students need prior
knowledge of bonding in order to be successful at strategies they will learn later on
(like vertical addition).
Last, Singapore Math teaches students to understand math in stages,
beginning with concrete (using manipulatives such as counters, number disks, dice, and
so on), then moving to pictorial (solving problems where pictures are involved), and finally
working in the abstract (where numbers represent symbolic values). Through the
process, students learn numerous strategies to work with numbers and build