Eureka Math vs Singapore Math

While the content is similar, Eureka makes learning math less interesting and less accessible for young students.
February 20, 2023 7210 0 42

The big picture

Eureka Math echoes Singapore Math: students learn to develop an understanding of a number as a unit and learn mathematics through solving problems. In K-5, Eureka curriculum uses essentially the same content, teaching method (CPA), and models as Singapore Math.

In essence, Eureka is a reverse engineered Singapore curriculum. While the programs’ content and teaching methods are similar, their resources and heuristics are full of contrasts. Highlighting the similarities and differences will help you better understand the pros and cons of Eureka Math.

Similarities between Eureka and Singapore Math

The resemblance between Eureka and Singapore Math is clear: Both curricula use the unitary procedures to work out problems in four operations and CPA teaching progression to teach them.

Both curricula utilize the same visual models, hands-on experiences, and manipulatives: ten frames, number bonds, connected cubes, base-ten blocks, bundles, array, area models, number discs, number line, place value charts, and bar models (tape diagram).

Still, there is considerable dissimilarity between Eureka and Singapore Math. The following list describes the ten biggest differences between the Eureka curriculum and Singapore programs. The list also reveals Eureka’s shortcomings.

Eureka Math vs Singapore Math

1. Student resources

One of the biggest differences between Singapore Math vs Eureka Math is in the design of materials for students. While offering voluminous books for teachers, Eureka put no effort in designing colorful child-friendly resources specifically for young learners.

Unlike the exercises in the Singapore Math books, the problems in Eureka Math are not accompanied by any graphics. There are no student-friendly illustrations of thinking and metacognitive activities in any of the Eureka Math components.

2. Clarity of presentations

Eureka curriculum materials for students have low aesthetic qualities. They are literally colorless and dull.  In contrast to Eureka Math, the Singapore Math resources are professionally designed for young learners in a way to create a clear image of elementary mathematics as a coherent well-written story. These resources possess elevated aesthetic qualities such as clear layouts, composition, and kid-friendly characters.

3. Introduction of new ideas

The lack of illustrations in the Eureka Math program negatively impacts student learning. Why? Colorless worksheets do not elicit interest in learning mathematics and they certainly do not prepare students for learning new ideas.

Unlike Eureka, the Singapore Math resources contain kid-friendly illustrations that elicit interest in learning math and prepare students for learning new ideas. The Singapore materials depict colorfully illustrated activities and anchor tasks that set-in motion new math concepts.  These illustrations often have a recurrent thread that occurs in a few places in each chapter to stimulate reflective thinking.

4. Reading demands

Also, the lack of illustrations in the Eureka Math program requires strong reading comprehension for young students to be successful. Starting in Grade 1, Eureka Math relies heavily on students’ ability to read because students don’t have pictures to aid their understanding of word problems.

Eureka Math’s inordinate focus on reading takes away valuable time from math periods.  While reading comprehension is very important, its teaching should be mostly done during ELA class time. Students should be learning math during math periods.

In contrast to Eureka, Singapore Math resources contain a lot of pictorial scaffolds to help young learners visualize and better comprehend the structures of word problems. This alleviates the necessity of achieving full reading comprehension to solve questions and helps young students who struggle with reading shift their focus from reading comprehension to solving math problems.

5. Method for solving word problems

The authentic model method for solving word problems was created in Singapore about forty years ago. This method uses diagrams of bar structures with dozens of carefully engineered strategies that help students develop analytical skills.

This original problem-solving method explicitly provides for planning and reflections. Applying it consistently in new problem situations fosters transfer of knowledge. In contrast to Singapore Math, Eureka Math simply “borrowed” the model method and inserted it into its curriculum without providing any explanation of its origin. In fact, all Eureka Math strategies to solve word problems are exactly the same as the Singapore Math strategies.

Eureka renamed bars models as tape diagrams and, in contrast to Singapore Math, Eureka does not provide any materials that explain the method’s strategies.  Instead, Eureka math curriculum website provides only bare bones examples of the two models in the Story of Units implementation worksheet.

6. Problem-solving process

Another big difference between Singapore Math vs Eureka Math is in the problem-solving process. Unlike the Singapore Math method, which centers around process for solving math problems, Eureka sidesteps the inquiry process by focusing more on reading and writing than mathematical structures of word problems. While reading and writing are very important, developing them should not be the focus of the inquiry process.

The Singapore method embeds Polya’s four-step sequence: comprehending the problem – creating a plan – carrying out the plan – looking back. In step 1, students study the problem and draw a model to represent it. In step 2, students create a plan and select a bar modeling strategy to solve it. In step 3, students perform calculations and come out with a solution. In step 4, students check if the answer is reasonable and reflect back.

In contrast to Singapore Math’s inquiry process, Eureka Math Engage New York uses a three-step sequence: Read – Draw – Write (RDW), a process that is largely focused on composition or writing.  It lacks three very important steps for developing math skills: planning, strategy selection, and the final step of reflecting back on the strategies used.

7. Number of problem-solving strategies

Unlike Singapore Math, Eureka doesn’t offer a variety of heuristics. While Eureka makes use of bar models, their use lacks depth and variety. The strategies described in Eureka’s guide show only basic modeling relationships in four operations.

In contrast to Eureka, Singapore Math provides students with a diversity of heuristics and techniques that enable students to solve a great variety of problems. In Grades 2-5, students gradually learn 11 types of structures with about 36 variations for solving word problems. This enables students to solve over 80% of all word problems without using Algebra.

While in lower grades, both programs teach basic heuristics for solving fairly simple one-step problems, in Grades 4 and 5 the contrast between Eureka and Singapore Math is significant because Singapore Math provides more schemas that enable students to solve many more open-ended problems.

8. Rigor

Starting in Grade 2, Eureka Math Engage New York lags behind Singapore Math by 3 to 6 months. Why? Eureka Math has the Common Core Learning Progressions as the foundation of its scope and sequence. While laying out the structure of Eureka’s mathematics, these “progressions” move the curriculum at a slower and less rigorous pace.

The Common Core and State Standards in K-5 were always intended to be used as the baseline knowledge that students need to gradually achieve in each grade. Designers of Common Core intentionally delayed introduction of some math topics to alleviate transition for teachers and students from the programs they had been using to the new Standards. As such, Eureka’s full alignment to Common Core and State Standards makes the curriculum less rigorous.

9. Lesson design

Eureka Math Engage New York uses a single-framed lesson design consisting of a four-step progression: practice, concept development, application, and student debrief (i.e., assessment). While using this lesson frame simplifies teaching, the single-framed progression lacks depth and versatility.

In contrast to Eureka, Singapore Math is more focused on the process of learning than assessments. Singapore Math’s instructional design consists of three phases: readiness, engagement, and mastery.

In the readiness phase, teachers create learning environments that motivate students to learn. In the engagement phase, teachers use a repertoire of pedagogies that includes activities, teacher-directed inquiry, and direct instruction. The mastery phase consists of motivating practice, reflective reviews, and extended learning.

10. Cost

Eureka’s program appears to cost less than Singapore Math only because Eureka’s pricing structure is less transparent. However, comparing apples to apples, the total cost of adopting the Eureka Math curriculum is higher than any of the four Singapore Math programs.

For example, one school district in Wyoming spent almost $400 per student to purchase Eureka’s elementary program in the 2022-23 school year. On a per student basis, this total breaks down approximately, as follows: $74 on workbooks, $18 for online access, $34 on manipulatives, and $272 on teacher training.

Risks of using Eureka Math

Not a student-friendly program

While it is true that Eureka Math program is teacher-friendly and offers educators elaborate lesson scripts, at the same time, it’s not a student-friendly program. Why? Young children prefer to learn using kid-friendly colorful resources over colorless worksheets.

Just as young children prefer to read esthetically pleasing illustrated storybooks that contain kid-friendly characters, they also prefer to learn math using resources that contain colorful illustrations of math problems.

The uncertainty

Lacking the TIMMS and PISA international benchmark track records, Eureka’s 8-year-old program is much younger and less established. It is highly unlikely or at best uncertain that the program which doesn’t have a child-friendly medium for delivering a Story of Units would elicit excitement or interest in learning math in young students. 

The risk

The uncertainty gets to one of the biggest differences between the Singapore Math and Eureka Math programs: Lacking an international track record and student-friendly resources, Eureka makes learning math not only less interesting and but also less accessible for young students.

Is the Eureka Math program the same as Engage New York curriculum?

Eureka Math was formerly commonly known as the Engage NY math curriculum or NYS math modules in 2014-2022. Seeing a great need in helping schools with the implementation of the new CCSS in Mathematics, the New York State Education Department allocated public funds to create the Engage New York curriculum.

The contract to create the new math program was awarded to the Great Minds Corp. in 2012. That company created the Engage NY curriculum, which was subsequently transformed into Eureka Math.

What type of math is Eureka Math?

Eureka Math is a Common Core math. Eureka Math’s framework is entirely built on the Common Core Learning Standards and Progressions for the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics.

Is Eureka Math a good curriculum?

The answer to this question depends on the target audience. If you’re a teacher in a public school who needs to cover State Standards and your goal is merely to prepare students for State tests, then Eureka may be a good curriculum for you. Also, if you like teaching using entirely scripted lesson plans or need a lot of support in teaching lessons then Eureka Math is also a good fit for you.

However, if you’re a teacher who is looking for a colorful student-friendly math program that engages students in learning, then Eureka may not be a good fit for you because the curriculum is dull.

If you’re a special ed teacher who is looking for kid-friendly colorful resources and gamified learning experiences to provide remediation or enrichment, then Eureka curriculum may not be a good fit for you because Eureka lacks these features.

If you’re homeschooling your children and need a rigorous math program that’s easy to use then Eureka may not be a good fit for you because Eureka Math resources for parents are not easy to use. Instead, you should consider using E-Singapore Math.

A parent’s perspective on Eureka Math

No easy-to-teach parent-friendly resources

While the Eureka Math curriculum website provides a general overview of the program, it lacks easy-to use and parent-friendly resources.  In general, there are very few resources that offer Eureka math help for parents.

The teacher’s guides offer lengthy and elaborate teaching “scripts” that parents don’t have time to pour over. In contrast, there are no resources for parents that are designed to meet parents’ specific needs as teachers. There are no short, focused parent guides that actually show how to teach Eureka Math to produce multiple solutions to the same problems on homework exercises.

When a parent tries to help her child, there are no easy-to-use teaching resources to learn from or to go back to refresh memory on how to complete the task.  When the question asks to solve the problem in 2 or 3 different ways, there is no answer key to find the worked-out examples of what the 2 to 3 methods should look like.

All you have are loose worksheets for practice at home

Since there are no textbooks or student books, schools using Eureka Math provide students only with worksheets for practice at home.  For example, there are no resources for parents that fully explain Eureka Math strategies to solve word problems. Students can’t go back to see how any concepts were taught. All the work already done is hidden in a shuffle of loose papers.

Where to find help teaching Eureka Math

If your school is using Eureka Math and you want to help your child learn, then you should consider supplementing Eureka with lessons and games from E-Singapore Math.

Is Eureka Math research based?

Since Eureka is mostly based on Singapore Math, by extension, the program is based on solid research, except for missing colorful and well-designed child-friendly resources. While the Eureka math overview does not reference any research, related studies can be found elsewhere.

For over 25 years, researchers have studied what makes Singapore Primary Mathematics the best elementary math curriculum in the world. They found several surefire elements of a successful primary math program: rigor, coherence, focus, mastery as the goal, and well-designed student-friendly resources.

Eureka Math Pros and Cons

Pros

Eureka Math will fit your needs if:

  • you like teaching following a lesson script
  • you prefer teaching math through using problem sets on worksheets
  • you’re looking for 100% alignment to your State Standards
  • you’re mostly teaching on grade level students
  • most of your students can read fluently

Cons

  • lacking student-friendly colorful resources
  • your students are struggling with reading comprehension
  • providing remediation is challenging
  • providing enrichment is challenging

Do you have advice for teachers who are using Eureka Math?

If you want to ensure that young students are interested and engaged in math learning, the research tells us that you should provide young learners with colorful, easy-to-use, well-designed child-friendly materials or online resources that make learning math accessible and more interesting for young students.

Practicing mathematics on colorless worksheets may have been acceptable in the past. However, it’s simply not good enough anymore. If you want to ensure effective teaching and learning, Eureka Math should be supplemented with other kid-friendly resources such as the Singapore Math adaptive learning resource.

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