How to Teach Singapore Math for Parents

Singapore Math review and guide for homeschooling families
July 27, 2022 3831 0 12

Planning for Teaching Singapore Math at Home

Prior to looking into the different resources and curricula options available to homeschooling families, it’s important for you to know or review the best practices for teaching Singapore Math at home. This short review will also help you pick the right curriculum for you and your child, including, student books, textbooks, teacher guides or the adaptive learning option.


Generally, homeschoolers plan on teaching Singapore Math at home because they know the many benefits this program provides for their children, including development of problem-solving abilities, true understanding of numbers, and confidence in math for life.

The shortcut

Often parental preparation is limited to reading Singapore Math homeschool reviews and comparing differences among the textbooks and programs. These reviews tend to oversimplify what it takes to successfully teach Singapore Math at home or recommend a particular program and the following shortcut:

  1. Buy workbooks and a Homeschool Instructor’s Guide
  2. Use the Homeschool Instructor’s Guide to teach and workbooks to give practice
  3. To save money don’t purchase textbooks (“tip: using textbooks is optional”).

What’s the problem with the shortcut?

The first potential problem is that if you’re new to the Singapore Math method then you’ll likely go through a learning curve to understand how to teach the program and it may take you some time. If you’re good with numbers, teaching this curriculum can still be frustrating because the teaching method is very different from how most parents learned math during their school years.  

The second potential problem is that you can’t exclusively use Singapore student books or textbooks to provide direct instruction and practice for memorization because these books are designed for students to do activities, such as explorations, that contain questions and “thinking” prompts. These books assume that you already know the pedagogy or will be reading through a Singapore Math parents guide to understand and apply in your teaching the key problem-solving strategies.  

The third potential problem, especially if you want to transition to a Singapore program from another program, is that the curriculum is spiral. Unlike in other programs where sequential lessons or topics may be unrelated, in this curriculum new learning builds on already acquired knowledge in previous lessons, chapters and years. Therefore, if your child missed a topic or didn’t master it, you won’t be able to easily move on to learning a new concept without doing an extensive review or providing remediation.

Review about Singapore Math for homeschooling

Successfully teaching Singapore Math at home involves teaching beyond basic facts, practicing, and memorizing.  It involves learning about and applying the method of instruction and strategies.

3 things you must know and consistently apply:

  • CPA

The method of instruction, which is called Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract (CPA). In this approach, you begin with concrete learning: concrete objects or visual objects. Then, you connect the object to pictures to visual models, and only in the final stage, to numbers and equations. 

Consistently following the CPA method of instruction gives children space and time to understand why a particular skill works before practicing and memorizing. This method is research based and time-tested and, as you can see from the TIMMS and PISA scores, leads to achieving mastery in math in school and in life.

  • Mental math

The strategies used in mental math include making and breaking numbers using number bonds and bars in K-5. Mental math is important because it helps children become flexible with numbers and understand their properties more deeply. Therefore, parents will need to become very familiar with mental math strategies, number bonds, and other tools.

  • Bar modeling

Bar models are used to solve word problems in 4 operations and to teach about units, fractions, and other topics in K-5. Using bar models helps student develop mathematical thinking. It’s key to solving a variety of open-ended and non-routine problems. Therefore, parents will need to learn and teach bar modeling strategies to their children.

The Singapore Math foundation is built on the CPA method, mental math and bar modeling. Mental math helps young learners become flexible with numbers and to understand their relationship in a place value system, which leads to mastering arithmetic. Singapore consistently uses bars as units to help students develop problem-solving abilities and get them ready for learning Algebra in middle school. 

The adaptive learning option

Some parents find that following the CPA approach is challenging and learning mental math and bar modeling strategies is difficult and, often, frustrating. If this describes your experience, you should consider purchasing the E-Singapore Math program because the adaptive curriculum does the teaching for you. There are 3 easy steps to do:

  1. Placement test (in the adaptive mode diagnostics is done after the purchase)
  2. Choose a homeschooling plan
  3. Subscribe and start learning

Alternatively, if you choose any textbook curriculum, you will need to read through a Singapore Math parents guide or a Home Instructor’s Guide to prepare for teaching each lesson until you become comfortable with the program and strategies.  

Also, homeschoolers looking for help in teaching the program, preparing for lessons, or any other Singapore Math parent help should use a Home Instructor’s Guide, which is designed for homeschoolers rather than a Teacher’s Guide, which is designed for group in-classroom instruction.

A parent’s role in teaching Singapore Math  

Regardless of the curriculum you chose, all Singapore Math programs generally follow a 3-step learning cycle in all grades. When teaching Singapore Math at home you too should plan on consistently going through a 3-step learning cycle process: teach, do guided practice exercises together with your child, and assign independent practice (homework).

Step 1 – Go through the CPA sequence

Taking time to go through the CPA sequence, including the use of many images, is important because it provides children with an opportunity to understand a new topic in many different ways and connect it to prior knowledge. Doing activities in the CPA phase leads to establishing and developing a strong math foundation and number sense.

Many parents tend to skip the first step because they think it’s “unnecessary” or that their child “already knows that” or that it “takes too much time.” However, it’s an essential step in successful teaching Singapore Math at home. It’s during this stage that children should have the freedom to experiment and make discoveries of new-to-them ideas and strategies for solving problems. In the CPA stage, children should have the opportunity, space and time to deepen their understanding of a new concept. 

All Singapore programs and student books start chapters and lessons with some form of explorations and prompts-to-think activities. The chapters and lessons contain activities that are collectively known as anchor tasks.  These tasks are designed for educators to ask questions and explore new math concepts using the CPA method. Here you’ll often use manipulatives such as counters, connective cubes, and others.

Step 2 – Do guided practice exercises with your child

After going through the CPA sequence, a parent’s role in teaching Singapore Math is to do guided practice exercises with your child. In this stage, children will try solving successively more challenging problems with your help and guidance.

All Singapore programs and books provide the guided practice activities and exercises but may call them by different names such as Learn, Learn Together, Do, and others.

Step 3 – Assign Independent Practice and Homework

After completing guided practice, your child should be ready to do independent work or homework in a student book or workbook. All of the programs and books provide practice exercises.  Some programs provide a lot more exercises than others.  

Some programs contain many more challenging problems in their core materials than others. Parents should carefully select the amount and difficulty of the exercises to be assigned for independent practice and, if necessary, plan to help child with Singapore Math homework.

How to teach Singapore Math in Pre-Kindergarten

Formal learning of mathematics in Singapore starts in Grade 1 or Level 1. In Singapore there is no formal curriculum for teaching math in Pre-Kindergarten or Kindergarten. However, young learners should be able to recognize and visualize numbers and simple patterns. They also should be able to do the following: 1) counting 2) matching 3) sorting 4) comparing.

Therefore, teaching Singapore Math in Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) should rather be informal and activity-based to focus learning on visualization of numbers in different combinations and patterns. Children should be engaged in games and activities with a variety of physical and/or visual objects and pictures.  

Visual Math Karate Program in Pre-Kindergarten is FREE

If you want your child to start developing mathematical abilities in Pre-Kindergarten, then you may want to consider using the Math Karate Program (VMK). This program is focused on developing genuine mathematical skills and it’s free in Pre-K.  

VMK engages young learners in many different activities to visualize numbers, to recognize patterns, to count, to compare, to match, and to sort. In addition, along with development of their mathematical thinking, the program contains fun games to help children also develop their memory.

Children who missed learning in Pre-K can easily start learning with VMK in Kindergarten. The program contains the activities to help children learn the important regrouping calculations within numbers to 20 in Grade 1. The resource can also serve struggling learners who need remediation or review in Grades 2 and 3.

To start your child on the Pre-Kindergarten program, follow the link below: Visual Math Karate Program

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