Singapore math made its way to the United States in the 1980s. Early adopters of Singapore math were homeschooling parents, however, popularity significantly increased after the release of scores from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), ranking Singapore at the top of the world in fourth grade and eighth grade mathematics! Today, Singapore math remains part of the national core curriculum.
Singapore math involves problem solving and requires children to understand how something works by understanding why it works. This is because Singapore math relies heavily on visualization, which in the past was often neglected in the American classroom. In a typical American math classroom, teachers incorporated a concrete-abstract pedagogy, using physical objects to demonstrate how to multiply. Singapore, on the other hand, introduces a middle step between the concrete and abstract called the pictorial approach. This approach asks students and teachers to draw a diagram of the concepts going on.
Students learn to use model drawing (often called bar modeling) to solve those sticky word problems that many of us fondly remember from elementary school. Instead of trying to picture the problem in their heads and then writing out the equation to solve it, students diagram the elements of the word problem in Singapore math. This model drawing strategy gives teachers a tool to help students decode word problems, making them less daunting and more interactive than previous concrete-abstract models.
Here are the steps of model drawing that students use:
1. Read the entire problem.
2. Rewrite the question in sentence form, leaving space for the answer.
3. Determine who/ what is involved in the problem.
4. Draw unit bars for each of your subjects.
5. Chunk the problem, adjust the unit bars, and fill in the question mark.
6. Compute and solve the problem.
7. Fill in the answer in the sentence and make sure it makes sense.
Here is an example of a student’s process during the pictorial phase:
So now when asked, “What is Singapore Math?” you know it’s one of the world’s leading math curriculums.
It’s also important to note that research has shown the program requires training before it can be used to it’s fullest potential! There are several other drawing models and exercises that Singapore math offers. If you are interested in using this program as a tool to educate students, we have three different courses that will train you for different education levels and go more in-depth with strategies:
By the end of your 6-week training, you’ll be equipped with powerful strategies and an expert in one of the world’s highest regarded math curriculums!