The introduction of the Singapore Math method of learning changed how we teach math. In this program, we use a phase learning model. It moves from the concrete idea to the visual representation to abstract problem-solving. 

Through this form of sequential learning, students develop a stronger understanding of math. Moreover, they do so without hours of unnecessary busy work. This is great for students because it removes a stressful load. However, it confuses some who drop into this style of curriculum later on. 

Let’s take a deeper look at this learning style because you probably want to know. What is Singapore Math?

What Is Singapore Math?

What sets Singapore Math apart from other methods? Surprising to many, it’s not the content. Instead, it’s the philosophy. 

The framework of this method moves away from memorization. Instead, students learn to solve problems and develop mathematical thinking processes. These are key factors in successfully learning math. 

Without a solid base to build from, students have little to draw on as they learn increasingly complex math. However, this does not mean the skills they learn are rudimentary. In reality, it’s a simple shift in focus. 

This method promotes the idea that it’s essential to take as much time as necessary to master the skill. That way, students stick to a concept until they understand it. When they do, they move on to the next skill. Additionally, it allows teachers to revisit and reteach concepts whenever necessary. 

The CPA Approach to Learning

As mentioned earlier, the method involves three phases. When a teacher introduces a concept, it follows the same progression: CPA. 

  • Concrete
  • Pictorial 
  • Abstract

Through this process, students learn how to do something. More importantly, they learn why it works. 

Where Did Singapore Math Come From?

Unsurprisingly, Singapore Math comes from Singapore. However, over there, they simply refer to it as math. Developed under the Singaporean Minister of Education, the country introduced the program in 1982. 

In 1998, Dawn and Jeff Thomas brought this program back to the U.S. and used it to supplement their child’s schoolwork. By doing so, they realized how beneficial it could be to schools and homeschool students. 

In the United States, Singapore Math started to gain popularity among smaller private schools and classical schools. 

How Does the Singapore Math Method Work?

Let’s take a look at a typical third-grade math class. As the teacher starts the class, they say, “Today, I want to show you long division.” Then, students watch as the teacher demonstrates the process and actions it takes to solve a problem. 

With the Singapore method, it looks a bit different. Instead of the demonstration and repetition, students work to master the theory upfront. Here’s an example. 

“I have some pennies, and I want to put them in some jars.” With a bag of pennies and some jars on the table, students have a concrete example. 

Next, the teacher clarifies. “I have 17 pennies, and I want to spread them evenly in these 5 jars.” 

First, the students think through how it works. Then, they share their ideas about what it means. How do you share the coins equally? What does “equally” mean here? How did they approach the problem? 

The Pros and Cons of Singapore Math

As with any method, there are pros and cons. While some see the development of problem-solving skills as a benefit, others find aspects of it detrimental. 

Some parents worry that Singapore Math is too confusing, especially within Common Core Standards. They believe it complicates the teaching process. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits and the cons. 


Singapore Math is popular among classical schools, private schools, home schools, and public schools. There’s a good reason for this. When we look at countries with students who excel in math, we see that they use diagrams. 

These diagrams are a valuable bridge between early learning and advanced learning. Moreover, they encourage problem-solving through intuition. 

Here are some benefits of Singapore Math. 

  • It aligns well with the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
  • The method asks students to develop meaning in order to learn skills. This is an alternative to the memorization of formulas and rules. 
  • Singapore Math covers fewer topics in a single year. However, it offers an in-depth lesson to ensure students have a stronger foundation. This avoids the need to relearn concepts. 
  • The curriculum focuses on clear, digestible, concise learning. 
  • The textbooks build sequentially and reference prior concepts. This promotes accelerated learning with less busy work. 

The Cons

Although plenty of research suggests there are many benefits to Singapore Math, it’s not for everyone. In fact, some schools find it difficult to implement. 

Here are some of the drawbacks to this method. 

  • The alignment with the Common Core State Standards isn’t a pro for everyone. 
  • It’s potentially less effective with a nomadic population of students. Because Singapore Math is sequential, it might set some students up for a struggle if they change districts. 
  • There’s less focus on applied mathematics, which is more of the norm in the United States. 
  • The method requires continuous teacher training. Unfortunately, this isn’t practical for some school districts. 
  • Supplies in this program require re-ordering every year. This puts a financial burden on already strained districts. 

How Do I Help My Child with Singapore Math?

It’s important to remember that Singapore Math is sequential. It’s a progressive process that includes helping kids understand concepts in three phases. If you teach your child, be sure to utilize the guides. 

These teacher guides offer lesson plans as well as instructions. When your child attends a classical school that uses this method, it’s helpful to find tips online. For instance, Singapore Math has a Facebook group for parents and teachers to share tips and advice. 

Is Singapore Math Right for Your Student?

While there’s no universal learning method that works for everyone, this method approaches learning in a digestible way. The sequential process helps children grow ideas in order. Each concept lays the groundwork for the next. 

With this method, we often see students retain problem-solving skills over a longer period of time. Whether it’s right for your child depends on how they learn. At our classical school, we place a focus on growing the whole child. 

We help our students develop as they grow and instill a desire to learn and a love for learning. To learn more about Singapore Math and our curriculum, contact our school today