Singapore Math® Overview by Level

Singapore Math®, the curriculum that the country of Singapore uses in their schools with remarkable success, is extremely clear, highly logical and sequential, and has a strong focus on mental math. Students get a good amount of practice without too much repetition. Challenging word problems build thinking skills and help students apply math in a variety of situations.

Their Primary Math includes grades 1 through 6. This is broken up into twelve sets, two sets per level. 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. 1st through 4th sets each have 1 textbook and 2 workbooks. The 5th and 6th sets each consist of 1 textbook and 1 workbook. Secondary includes 7th through 10th grades.

    A few notes:
  • Sonlight carries the U.S. edition of each Singapore program.
  • Yes, it is written in English (the language of instruction in Singapore).
  • Most measurements are in metric.
  • Currency (when there are currency problems) is in U.S. dollars.
  • The books come in soft cover and are printed on high quality paper.

Pre-K and Kindergarten Mathematics = Early Bird Pre-School Mathematics

Singapore Math® offers an Early Bird Pre-School Mathematics series of two books for children starting at age 4. The first book is for children 4 years old. The second is for 5-year olds. Each book contains a wide range of activities designed to introduce children to some of the basic math concepts including color, shape, size, number, length, weight, capacity, time, money, and graphs. The books include simple instructions and short notes for parents and teachers on how to introduce the concepts to the students. Illustrations for the students are simple, colorful and fun. This approach will help students to begin their lives with a positive competence in math leading to lifelong mastery and confidence in that subject.

Primary Mathematics

The quality of the Singapore Math® program is outstanding. All elementary students in the country of Singapore use Singapore Primary Math. Knowing the high academic standards of the country of Singapore tells us that this program has passed the muster of their best thinkers for their whole nation. It is also adaptable to both classroom and home schooling.

Sonlight has developed unique "Home Instructor's Guides" for the Primary Math programs (2A-6B). These guides bridge the gap between textbook and workbook and walk you through them in a logical, step by step fashion. We lay it all out for you: concepts you'll cover in each unit, pages you'll reference, and numerous exercises to reinforce the concepts you're teaching.

Singapore's system is designed to integrate adult supervision with the independent practice by the students. Their goal is to build a foundation of thinking into the students that will position them for more advanced math. The way Singapore does this is by first introducing students to key concepts with concrete examples and pictures. Then, the student is led progressively and logically to understand the abstract concept.

Singapore Math® is a pleasing balance between drill and creative problem solving. Those who have compared SM with other math curriculum report that Singapore Math® moves the students more quickly and rationally toward abstract concepts. Compared to U.S. materials that cover a larger number of topics rather superficially, SM solidly builds the foundational concepts that will best prepare students for higher math. There is an emphasis on homework and practice, and an effective mix of word problems, drills and mental calculation. The workbooks are designed to be completed by the students without adult assistance, but adult interaction will strengthen the process. This style stimulates clarity of thought, communication skill in the language of mathematics, and adaptability to problem solving.

Instruction can be paced to the needs of each individual student. For most students, two to three pages from the textbooks will be sufficient for each day. Then the accompanying section from the workbook should be completed independently by the student.

Secondary Mathematics

Singapore's Secondary Math program is called "elementary" because it focuses on teaching "the basics" of higher math, including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, etc. Therefore, in the Singapore Math® program, the word "elementary" is not to be confused with the Primary grade levels of 1st through 6th. These two terms are not synonymous. In the Singapore system, their "Elementary Mathematics Syllabus" is their Secondary program.

This program is used by 90% of Singapore's secondary students in the academic stream (headed for college). Sonlight carries 7th and 8th. It begins with a complete review of arithmetic then moves on to algebra and geometry. The workbooks contain additional practice exercises, timed exams, and complete answer keys. There is a workbook for each level. Workbooks do not provide answer keys to Class Activities, Challenger, Problem Solving and Investigation sections (see below). These are available in the Teacher's Guides.

Seventh grade (Level 1) consists of one text, one Teacher's Guide, and an optional workbook. (The Teacher's Guides are essentially just answer keys. All of the workbooks in this four-year series are optional. They contain additional exams and exercises.)

Eighth grade (Level 2) consists of a text and a Teacher's Guide. An optional workbook is also available.

New Elementary Mathematics Teacher's Manual is specially designed for teachers. It contains a scheme of work with a weekly schedule listing the objectives of each lesson. It has answers to the Class Activities, along with occasional notes which explain the purpose of the activity and provide teaching tips. The guide has answers, teaching suggestions and detailed step-by-step solutions to the problems in the Challenger, Problem Solving and Investigation sections. These solutions often include alternate solutions and suggestions to the teacher for follow-up activities. The solutions for the Problem Solving sections also include the strategy and thinking skills needed to solve the problem. New Elementary Mathematics Teacher's Manuals will eventually replace all the Teacher's Guides.

Quick Review Guides are booklets (about 30 pages) that give a summary of the concepts covered in each chapter. They also show examples and solutions relevant to each concept. This guide is free with every textbook purchase. The guide does not come with the Teacher's Guides.

The Singapore Elementary Mathematics program is designed to thoroughly ground students in the basic math concepts and their applications. Problem solving, mathematical reasoning and higher order thinking are also taught. To accomplish this the program includes the following features:

  1. Exercises. Many different exercises of varying difficulty are provided for the students to solve. The problems are then graded. More difficult questions are marked with asterisks.
  2. Chapter Reviews. Each chapter is concluded with concise chapter reviews that cover the material and key concepts taught in the chapter.
  3. Challenger Sections. Immediately following each Chapter Review is a section that presents interesting and challenging problems that relate to the chapter just covered. This is for the students who want more of a challenge.
  4. Problem Solving. Various problem-solving exercises are provided to give students the opportunity to sharpen their problem-solving skills.
  5. Revision (Review) Exercises. Sets of revision (review) exercises are included at appropriate intervals to provide students with the necessary practice and reinforcement. This helps to develop mastery.
  6. Miscellaneous Exercises. Every so many chapters, exercises are provided that combine concepts learned from various chapters.
  7. Investigation. These Investigation sections provide opportunities for students to explore, experiment with, and discuss various mathematical ideas.
  8. Mathstory. One interesting feature of the Singapore Math® materials is the inclusion of sidebars that tell the history of math. Of course these correspond with the material being learned, thus making the information more practical and interesting.