Singapore Mathematics
Singapore Math Curriculum

What is Singapore Math?

Singapore Math is a method of learning that uses three distinct approaches to understanding mathematical concepts and problem-solving. It uses the concrete to pictorial to abstract approach and encourages students to actively think, understand, and communicate to solve math problems. If you have been curious about this style of learning, keep reading to find out everything about it and if it’s the best choice for your students.

What is Singapore Math?

Singapore Math is a term used to describe the mathematics curriculum developed and used in Singapore.Singapore Math is a method of learning that uses three distinct approaches to understanding mathematical concepts and problem-solving. It uses the concrete to pictorial to abstract approach and encourages students to actively think, understand, and communicate to solve math problems.

What is Singapore Math?

The History of Singapore Math and International Rankings.

​Before the 1980s, Singapore imported its math textbooks from other countries and its students were ranked in the lower half of countries in mathematics. In the early 1980s, Singapore started developing its own primary and secondary textbooks, The Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore published its first math program in 1982. In 1995, Singapore’s students were ranked first in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Since then, including 2019, Singapore’s students have been consistently ranked among the top.

​The Singapore Mathematics Framework.

The Singapore Mathematics framework was developed on the basis that mathematical problem solving is central to learning math. It involves the acquisition and application of mathematics concepts and skills in a wide range of situations, including non-routine, open-ended, and real-world problems. The development of mathematical problem-solving ability is dependent on five inter-related components, namely, Concepts, Skills, Processes, Attitudes, and Metacognition.

The CPA (Concrete to Pictorial to Abstract) Approach

– Concrete Learning

​Mathematical concepts cover numerical, algebraic, geometrical, statistical, probabilistic, and analytical concepts. Students would be given a variety of learning experiences to enable them to develop a good understanding of mathematical concepts and their connections and applications. Concrete materials (manipulatives) such as cubes, blocks, place value mats, geometric figures, and practical work are used as part of the learning experience.

​The Singapore Mathematics method in elementary grades uses the concrete to pictorial to abstract learning approach to encourage active thinking, understanding, and communication of mathematical concepts and problem-solving. Singapore Mathematics also emphasizes mental math and model drawing. This approach helps students transition better to more complex mathematical problems and algebra.

​Singapore Mathematics emphasizes the “why” before the “how”.

​- Pictorial Learning Approach

​At this stage, the concrete model is transformed into a pictorial level. This may involve model drawing, drawing circles, dots, or number bonds.

​Model drawing is an excellent approach to solving word problems. Model drawing is versatile can be used for 1st-grade addition problems or 5th-grade pre-algebra. Not only can this be used as a visual aid, but a teacher can use the same model to extend learning and ask questions such as: What is the ratio of the amount of money Kathy’s has to the amount of money Lucy has? or How much more money does Kathy have than Lucy?

– Abstract Learning Approach

​At this stage, the teacher models mathematical concepts at a symbolic level using numbers, notations and math symbols. Students are encouraged to reflect on mathematical attributes and relationships.



The Singapore Math Curriculums 

Related Post: Singapore Math Curriculum Comparison: Math in Focus Vs Primary Mathematics Vs Dimensions Math

Primary Mathematics

This specific type of Singapore math is only available in the United States and Canada. There are four editions to choose from. There are some practice exercises at the end of each new concept in the texts, but the bulk of the practice exercises are in the workbooks.

– U.S. Edition

This is almost identical to the original program used in Singapore, but with U.S. measurements and currency.

– Standards Edition

The Standards Edition was written to meet the 2006 Mathematics Contents Standards for California Public School and was issued prior to the Common Core State Standards. This edition includes probability, data analysis, negative numbers, and coordinate graphing.

– Common Core Edition

This is the edition that is more closely aligned with Common Core State Standards. This edition has minor changes to the scope and sequence, and the format for the Teacher’s Guides is updated to include student materials.

– 2022 Edition

Currently, in soft launch, the 2022 edition marks a major departure from previous Primary Mathematics editions with entirely new content and structure. It reflects current classroom practices in Singapore and provides more differentiation opportunities.


Related Post: New Primary Mathematics 2022 Edition (K-5)

Dimensions Math

Geared toward PK-5 grades, Dimensions Math is considered Singapore’s flagship program. It is comprehensive, rigorous, and beautifully designed for easy use. There are four different components to this curriculum:

  1. Textbooks: develop concepts in an accessible way and build on prior knowledge.
  2. Workbooks: offer independent practice while maintaining the careful progression of exercise variation.
  3. Teacher’s Guides: provide teaching notes and activities, answer keys, and more to achieve lesson objectives.
  4. Tests: systematically evaluate progress.

Dimensions Math is similar to the Primary Mathematics program in that they both follow the Singapore math approach. Dimensions Math emphasizes the CPA (Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract) progression, centers the use of number bonds and bar models to solve word problems, and encourages mastery of mental math to gain number sense, computational fluency, and logical thinking.

The biggest difference is Dimensions Math is the new and improved Singapore math program, while Primary Mathematics is the original curriculum that put Singapore math on the map.

Is there a Dimensions Math program beyond grade 5?

In case you were wondering about Dimension Math 6-8 (middle school years), there is a curriculum for that. The Dimensions Math 6-8 program brings the Singapore math approach to middle school, emphasizing problem-solving and empowering students to think mathematically. This rigorous series integrates pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, some trigonometry, and advanced math topics.


Math in Focus

Math in Focus is the U.S. version of Singapore’s mathematics program My Pals are Here! which is currently used in Singapore. Math in Focus is distributed in the U.S. through Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The curriculum covers Grades K to 8, and offers comprehensive material to support schools and homeschool students. 

Math in Focus has come up with a revised version for 2020 and is said to be the program’s most extensive revision since its  2009 release. In addition to printed material, the Math in Focus curriculum provides online resources for homeschoolers.


Pros and Cons of Singapore Math

Depending on your own level of understanding mathematical concepts, on top of how you’d like to teach your children (or students), there are many factors that could be a pro or con to using Singapore math. Below are a few things worth pointing out for each category. Ultimately, you’ll have to choose if this math curriculum is the best for you and your children/students.

Pros of Using Singapore Math

Singapore math is popular across the learning field, being loved and used by those in the public and private school system, in addition to being used by those in the homeschooling community. With the statistics of math advancement shown in students from Singapore, it is used in hopes of helping children excel in math. Here are a few benefits of using Singapore math:

  • It leads students in building meaningful connections to learning concepts and skills versus rote memorization of formulas and rules.
  • The concepts are covered in-depth and focus on mastery of a certain topic. It contains less repetition of old concepts previously taught. 
  • The curriculum uses textbooks and workbooks, both of which are easy to read with clear graphics.
  • The building on of previously learned concepts and skills offers learning acceleration without additional work.

Cons of Using Singapore Math

While there are many who love using this math program, some find the overall method not as easy to implement. Some drawbacks to using this curriculum are:

  • The focus is less on applied math and more on concept and ideology.
  • It could require extensive and ongoing teacher training.
  • Because supplies are consumable, they will need to be repurchased each school year.

How to select the right Singapore Math Curriculum?

It should first be noted that Singapore math could be right for you if you are looking for a program based on mastery. It’s less about the end goal and more about the process of learning how to do math from a logical and conceptual perspective. Before choosing a program, keep in mind the needs of your family and the students you’ll be teaching. Put in the time now to get clear about what you want so that you don’t end up shuffling through math programs over the years.

It is suggested to use the placement tests for your chosen curriculum in order to find out the best option for your students. One thing to keep in mind is how the grades align with U.S. schools. For example, Dimensions Math 1A and 1B cover Grade 1. 1A is the material for the first half of the year. 1B is the material for the second half of the year.

They also suggest not using the placement tests alone as mile markers for which curriculum level to start with your child. You should also consider how students worked the problems and where they had trouble. This will also help when choosing the best level and program.   


How is Singapore Math Different?

Simply put, Singapore Math is different because of its approach. It does not teach students to memorize by drilling concepts into their memory. Instead, the curriculum style teaches students how to mathematically think so they can rely on theory and logic. The progressive learning process also uses the CPA method – concrete, pictorial, and abstract.

Due to using this type of approach, a Teacher’s Manual and workbook is almost always needed in order to teach concepts. It is also different because it uses hands-on learning with math manipulatives. If you have a hands-on learner, this will cater to their style of learning. 


Does Singapore Math Work?

Singapore math is an evidence-based method that has students consistently ranking among the top on tests. Singapore students are the world’s math leaders. With this in mind, the Singapore math curricula aims to raise U.S. student performance internationally and at home on standardized and state assessments. The emphasis is always placed on mastery versus learning for a test.

Singapore math is especially beneficial for students that are visual and audible learners. The concepts are layered strategies that build on one another, making it another reason why Singapore math works.

How to Get Started Using Singapore Math

First, you’ll want to determine which program is right for your student. You can compare the different curriculums here so you can begin choosing the best fit. It is also wise to familiarize yourself with the different curriculums before getting started.

Next on the to-do list would be taking a placement exam. Keep in mind the end goal of the placement test is to help ensure your students start at the right level. It’s not meant to identify any learning delays or disabilities. 

There are also thriving online communities for parents and teachers who are currently using or aspire to use the Singapore Mathematics curriculum. These private groups are a great place for sharing and learning teaching tips, demonstrating how to solve problems, and asking questions.


Final Thoughts

We unpacked quite a bit of information in this article; however, it is sure to be beneficial in helping you decide if Singapore math is a curriculum and program you should use. At the end of the day, you can always try a sample to see if it fits your teaching style and your student’s learning style. If it doesn’t, there are many other math programs and curriculum available today. Don’t hesitate to give it a try so you can make a well thought out decision.     


If you have any questions or would like more information about Singapore Math, you can read and learn more at This is where you can read more about each of their programs in more depth and read reviews from others who currently use the curriculum or have used it in the past.