In the U.S., the term “Singapore Math” often refers to a collection of math teaching strategies common in Singaporean classrooms. Sometimes it describes the full math curriculum used in Singapore for grades K–6. Singaporeans do not use this phrase.
Singapore Math emphasizes the development of strong number sense, excellent mental-math skills, and a deep understanding of place value.
The curriculum is based on a progression from concrete experience—using manipulatives—to a pictorial stage and finally to the abstract level or algorithm. This sequence gives students a solid understanding of basic mathematical concepts and relationships before they start working at the abstract level.
Singapore Math includes a strong emphasis on model drawing, a visual approach to solving word problems that helps students organize information and solve problems in a step-by-step manner.
Concepts are taught to mastery, then later revisited but not re-taught. It is said the U.S. curriculum is a mile wide and an inch deep, whereas Singapore’s math curriculum is said to be just the opposite.
The Singapore approach focuses on developing students who are problem solvers.
First, it’s important to recognize that there is no single “U.S. approach.” In this country, most curriculum decisions are made at the local or state level. In Singapore, the Ministry of Education determines what will be taught nationwide.
That said, certain elements of the Singapore approach are distinctly different from what’s typical in the U.S. Although some of these strategies may be used on their own in U.S. schools, it would be rare to find all of them in an American classroom that is not adopting or supplementing with Singapore Math.
Model drawing and an emphasis on the concept of part-whole that precedes the teaching of model drawing
Daily activities to build on teacher-directed lessons
“Look and talks” to build understanding of mathematical language