A Singapore Math Comparison Guide
Currently, there are 4 main programs available for schools and homeschoolers considering using a Singapore Math curriculum: E Singapore Math (also called Singapore Math Curriculum Online), Primary Mathematics, Math in Focus, and Dimensions Math.
The Big Picture
The success of the Singapore Math teaching method is largely attributed to the Constructivist concrete-pictorial-abstract instructional sequence and focusing on learning only a few topics in-depth in each grade (known as the “teach less learn more” mantra), which provides ample time to achieve mastery.
Accordingly, the original Singapore Math Primary Mathematics textbooks were thin and focused on few concepts in each grade. The authentic Singapore Math curriculum, which received very high reviews, never repeated a topic and each new concept was built on the topic learned in the previous chapters and grades. Students were expected to master the newly learned concept prior to moving on or covering any new materials. The original materials were also designed to be cost-effective and most parents purchased both textbooks and workbooks for their children in each grade.
What they all have in common
While this Singapore Math comparison guide describes the differences among the four programs, we wish to point out some important features that are common to all of them. All four programs are based on the same Singapore Math method, which is founded on the Constructivist pedagogy and concrete-pictorial-abstract sequence. All four series are mastery-based and provide students with the benefits of bar modeling and mental math, and prepare students for learning Algebra in middle school and high school.
What’s the difference?
While the concrete-pictorial-abstract sequence and expectation of mastery are common to all four programs, some of the programs feature more of a spiral learning sequence and include extensive reviews of prior topics. Some of the curricula include many more teaching and learning activities than others, much more than in the original materials.
Also, as the Mathematics syllabus in Singapore went through a series of changes to embed the use of technology and improve its teaching and learning process, some of the programs were modernized more than others. While some Singapore Math programs can be used for virtual learning – meaning modern interactive distance learning – others remained entirely text-book based and lack web 2.0 portals.
To summarize, the main differences among the four Singapore Math curricula are as follows:
- ease of use
- number of learning activities
- virtual learning capabilities & embedded instruction
So, which Singapore Math curriculum is right for you?
The answer to this question will depend on whether you are a homeschooler or a teacher in a school and desire to have all or some of the following features in your program of choice:
- low cost
- ease of use
- embedded instruction
- use as a resource only
- use as a core curriculum
- access to enrichment & remedial resources
- teacher training & ongoing support
- alignment to CCSS, State, and Next Generation Standards
- virtual learning – instruction, practice, assessments, auto grading, statistics
Singapore Math Comparison Table
The following table provides a detailed comparison among the four Singapore Math curricula, which is based on the 10 features described above. For a more in-depth description of each program and differences between them see the 4 Singapore Math Curricula section below.
It’s important to note here that this Singapore Math comparison guide is focused on comparing the programs in Kindergarten through Grade 5 only, while two out of the four programs – Math in Focus and Dimensions Math – cover both primary and middle school mathematics through eighth grades. Also, only E Singapore Math and Dimensions Math offer a pre K component.
Singapore Math Comparison Table
|E Singapore Math||Primary Mathematics||Dimensions Math||Math in Focus|
|E Singapore Math||Christianbook, Rainbow Resource||Singapore Math Inc.||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt|
Embedded video instruction and practice
Ease of use
|Easy||Moderate||More challenging||More challenging|
Number of activities in a chapter/lesson
Learning progression & activities
|pre-test -> learn -> assist practice -> benchmark practice -> challenge -> post-test.|
chapter opener -> recall -> task -> learn -> learn together -> activity -> practice on your own -> Think! -> chapter practice -> performance task ->
STEAM project -> work -> heuristics.
|chapter opener -> think -> learn -> do with guided & independent practice ->chapter tests-> foundational -> on-level -> challenge or extension -> brain works.||Think -> engage -> learn -> hands-on activity -> try -> independent practice -> math talk -> math sharing -> games -> let’s explore -> math journal -> put on thinking cap! -> chapter wrap-up -> chapter review -> assessment prep. -> performance task -> STEAM.|
Using program as a resource only
|Yes||Not recommended||Not recommended||Not recommended|
Enrichment & remedial resources
Alignment to CCSS & Next Generation Standards
|100% or ahead||< 90% or ahead||< 90% or ahead||< 90% or ahead|
|Free by distributor||Extra cost. By publisher & 3rd parties||Extra cost. 3rd parties only||Extra cost. By distributor & 3rd parties|
Materials per grade
|Full access to all content in K-5 online, 2 workbooks (optional), assessments, web 2.0 online portal.||2 student books, 2 workbooks, assessments, 2 TGs, online resources, online portal, web 1.0 online portal.||2 textbooks, 2 workbooks, 2 test books, 2 TGs, e-books, web 1.0 online portal.||2 student books, several workbooks, assessments, 2 TGs, online resources, web 2.0 online portal.|
Four Singapore Math Curricula
Singapore Math Curriculum Online
The Singapore Math virtual curriculum was originally developed in Singapore in the late 2000s in response to the SARS pandemic. Since that time, the Singapore Math Curriculum Online has undergone several revisions, the latest being done in 2021.
The E Singapore Math 2021 edition provides schools and homeschoolers with a full curriculum in K-5, which is housed on a state-of-the art technology platform. The program offers high quality instruction, placement tests, over eight hundred ready-made lessons, over ten thousand exercises, plus assessments for every topic, unit and grade.
The instructional design of each chapter consists of 6 activities:
- pre-test – assesses student’s level of readiness and links students’ prior knowledge to new material
- learn - introduces new math concepts
- assist practice – provides visuals and guidance for students to acquire new concepts
- benchmark practice – application, practice and reinforcement of already learned concepts
- challenge - provides further opportunities for application and knowledge transfer
- post-test – measures students’ depth of knowledge acquired after learning a particular topic or unit
E Singapore Math presents an internet-based alternative to textbooks
Singapore Math Curriculum Online enables educators to customize lessons, differentiate instruction and provide enrichment and remediation activities in seconds. In this article, you can read about all 20 reasons why virtual Singapore Math is better than textbooks.
E Singapore Math can be conveniently used anywhere and anytime on notebooks, PCs or handheld devices such as iPads and Chromebooks. Since modern educators and students are already fluent with these devices and use them regularly for learning in schools and at home, they can easily use Singapore Math Curriculum Online to either supplement textbook-based learning or replace it entirely.
Singapore Math Curriculum Online 2021: a core curriculum or resource?
Singapore Math Curriculum Online can be flexibly used as either a core curriculum or as a resource. Teachers can effectively use the program to provide both in-classroom instruction and distance learning. Similarly, homeschoolers can flexibly use E Singapore Math for teaching at home or on the road. The program can also be used for enrichment and remediation.
E Singapore Math can be used with Primary Mathematics 2022, Math in Focus 2020, and Dimensions Math workbooks
Singapore Math Curriculum Online is available in 3 editions: Primary Mathematics 2022, Math in Focus 2020, and Dimensions Math. Schools and homeschoolers have an option of using a student book or workbook along with the virtual curriculum. The current (4th) edition of E Singapore Math is 100% aligned with Common Core and Next Generation Standards that enables schools to properly prepare students for State assessments. E Singapore Math also provides in-house Professional Development to schools.
On a cost per grade basis, Singapore Math Curriculum Online is roughly 90% less expensive than Dimensions Math, Primary Mathematics and Math in Focus.
For homeschoolers E Singapore Math provides 3 plans: silver, gold and platinum. The Gold plan is currently the most popular and it gives homeschooling families access to all six grades for $129, or only $21.50 for each grade. To make the program even more affordable, E Singapore Math offers back-to-school or other discounts.
For schools, E Singapore Math provides a platform which allows teachers to assign individual or series of lessons, exercises, and assessments, as homework or as independent practice. All exercises and tests are auto-graded and a detailed analysis of the results are given to students and teachers. To make the virtual curriculum affordable and easier to implement for schools, E Singapore Math provides discounted school licenses and free start-up Professional Development.
The original Singapore Math Primary Mathematics curriculum was created in Singapore in the early 1980s. The program was introduced in the U.S. and became popular in the homeschooling market, primarily on the West coast in the late 1990s. Subsequently, Singapore Math received a lot of attention from the media and also gained traction in the school market in the early to mid-2000s.
Since its introduction in the United States, Singapore Primary Mathematics went through a series of revisions. First, to Americanize it and then to align it to California and Common Core State Standards. The latest update was done to reflect changes in the Singapore Mathematics syllabus in 2021.
Primary Mathematics 2022
The latest edition of the Primary Mathematics curriculum has undergone a complete makeover. Instead of the textbooks, workbooks, challenging word problems and extra practice workbooks, the new edition provides the following student materials in each grade: two student books, one additional practice workbook, and one mastery and beyond workbook. The program also provides a traditional Teacher Guide, Home Instructor’s Guide (to be released soon), and assessments in each grade.
The instructional design of each chapter consists of 3 main phases that include 12 activities.
- Readiness – evokes prior knowledge and introduces students to the new topic in a problem-solving manner. There are 2 activities in this phase:
- Chapter opener
- Engagement – introduces students to new math concepts through CPA, engages them in group social learning and guided practice. There are 4 activities in this phase:
- Learn together
- Mastery - provides students with opportunities for practicing to mastery, application, and knowledge transfer. There are 6 activities in this phase:
- Practice on your own
- Chapter practice
- Performance task
- STEAM project work
The new Primary Mathematics program provides schools and homeschoolers with in-print and online resources. However, virtual learning is limited at this time. The range of resources cover remediation, enrichment, and an alignment to Common Core Standards guide. Teacher training is provided by 3rd party providers.
Primary Mathematics 2022: a core curriculum or resource?
When considering using Primary Mathematics 2022, schools and homeschoolers should plan on using the program as a core curriculum only. The instructional design of each chapter that consists of 12 activities would require teachers invest a substantial amount of time on a daily basis in preparation for teaching in a classroom setting. Schools, especially those that are new to the Singapore Math method should plan on receiving extensive teacher training prior to adopting the program.
For homeschoolers, the new Primary Mathematics Home Instructor’s Guide (soon to be released) will provide help for teaching lessons that are only 30 minutes in length. Therefore, similar to the prior editions of the program, homeschooling families can use Primary Mathematics in a straight forward manner.
Primary Mathematics 2022 costs roughly $170 per year for the student books, additional practice workbook, mastery and beyond workbook, teacher’s guide, assessments, and online resources. The publisher of Primary Mathematics provides initial teacher training, which is also available through third party providers.
Dimensions Math was created in the U.S. and published in 2018. The curriculum is available for students starting in Pre-K. Unlike Primary Mathematics 2022 and Math in Focus 2020, Dimensions Math provides traditional materials in each grade that include 2 textbooks and 2 workbooks, 2 Teacher Guides, and an assessment workbook. However, the program doesn’t provide a traditional Home Instructor’s Guide that homeschooling parents expect. Also, Singapore Dimensions Math is lacking various online resources and web 2.0 interactive experiences that modern educators and students have come to rely upon.
While Dimensions Math is almost entirely textbook-based, the curriculum lacks in-print enrichment and remedial resources that educators, especially Special Ed teachers, need to differentiate their instruction. Also, the program lacks in-house teacher training, including affordable Professional Development support that schools and teachers need and expect to receive from the publisher upon adoption.
The instructional design of each chapter consists of 6 main activities:
- Chapter opener – preparation work for introducing students to the new concept
- Think - introduces the problem, which has a common theme throughout a lesson or chapter
- Learn - introduces math concepts through CPA approach and engages students in group social learning
- Do - provides
- guided practice
- opportunities for independent practice, application and knowledge transfer
- Chapter tests
In addition to the 5 main activities described above, Dimensions Math provides the following 6 supporting activities:
- Brain works
Dimensions Math 2018: a core curriculum or resource?
When considering adopting Dimensions Math, schools and homeschoolers should plan on using the program as a core curriculum. The instructional design of each chapter that consists of 6 main and 5 supporting activities would require teachers invest a substantial amount of time in preparation for teaching in a classroom setting on a daily basis. Schools, especially those that are new to the Singapore Math method, should plan on receiving extensive teacher training prior to adopting the program.
Initial investment in Dimensions Math program, which would include textbooks, workbooks, assessments, Teacher Guides, and full access to online resources costs over $200 in each grade for both schools and homeschoolers. The publisher doesn’t provide any discounts to schools.
Math in Focus
Math in Focus was created in Singapore and originally released in the U.S. in 2009. Since then, the curriculum has undergone a few revisions, including the program’s alignment to CCSS.
Math in Focus provides the most complete and comprehensive list of in-print and online resources among the four series, which is the main reason why this program is currently the most popular Singapore Math curriculum in public schools. However, the vast amount of available resources and activities also makes Singapore Math in Focus somewhat challenging to adopt and teach because it’s hard to cover all content in the chapters and allocate the significant amount of time required to properly prepare for teaching the lessons in this program. Also, availability of the many resources makes Math in Focus the most expensive program out of all four options and, therefore, unaffordable for some homeschoolers and schools.
Math in Focus 2020
In 2020, Math in Focus in Kindergarten through fifth grades completely changed the design of the materials and chapter and lesson formats. The full-color textbooks and black and white workbooks were eliminated in all grades. Instead, Math in Focus 2020 provides two full-color consumable student books (plus many more in-print and online resources) in each grade.
The instructional design of each chapter consists of 6 main activities:
- Think – introduces students to the new topic in a problem-solving manner and encourages students to think metacognitively about it throughout the chapter
- Engage – designed to evoke students’ prior knowledge and prepare for learning the new topic
- Learn – designed to introduce a new concept using CPA
- Hands-on Activity – engages students in group social learning
- Try – designed for guided practice
- Independent Practice – provides opportunities for knowledge transfer.
In addition to the 6 main activities described above, Math in Focus 2020 also has the following 11 supporting activities:
Math Talk, Math Sharing, Games, Let’s Explore, Math Journal, Put on Thinking Cap!, Chapter Wrap-Up, Chapter Review, Assessment Prep, Performance Task, and STEAM.
Math in Focus 2020 provides schools and homeschoolers with the in-print and online resources for onsite and virtual learning. The range of resources cover differentiated instruction, extra practice, alignment with Common Core and Next Generation Standards. The distributor provides in-house Professional Development.
Math in Focus 2020: a core curriculum or resource?
When considering using Math in Focus 2020 program, schools and homeschoolers should plan on using it as a core curriculum only. It’s clear that the instructional design of each chapter consisting of 17 activities would require teachers and homeschoolers to invest a substantial amount of time on a daily basis in preparation for teaching. Schools, especially those that are new to the Singapore Math pedagogy, should plan on providing teachers with ongoing Professional Development and budget accordingly.
Math in Focus 2020 costs about $300 per grade for the student books, workbooks, teacher’s guide, assessments, and access to all of the in-print and online resources. The publisher provides teacher training, which is also available through third party providers.
Singapore Math Curriculum Online vs Primary Mathematics, Math in Focus and Dimensions Math
The major difference between Singapore Math Online curriculum and the other 3 programs is that the virtual curriculum offers a total package of benefits that don't exist in the other 3 textbook-based programs. These include embedded high-quality video instruction and practice, ease of use, low cost, customization of teaching and learning, and convenient access anywhere electronic devices can be used.
Price comparison of Singapore Math Online and the other 3 programs shows that on a cost per grade basis E Singapore Math is about 90% less expensive than Dimensions Math, Primary Mathematics and Math in Focus. Unlike the other 3 programs, E Singapore Math can be used to provide both in-classroom instruction and modern distance learning. Also, schools and homeschoolers can also flexibly use the program both as a core curriculum or resource.
Primary Mathematics vs Math in Focus vs Dimensions Math
Unlike the new Primary Mathematics and Math in Focus, Dimensions Math didn’t change the structure of its materials and the publisher continues to offer two full-color textbooks and two black-and-white workbooks in each grade. However, Dimensions Math doesn’t provide a traditional Home Instructor’s Guide, which makes it challenging for homeschooling parents to properly teach the program.
Dimensions Math is also lacking various online resources and enrichment and remedial workbooks that are common to the other two textbook-based programs. Site comparison shows that Dimensions Math has only a very basic web 1.0 portal and online resources that are similar to the basic PDFs of their e-books. The publisher doesn’t make the e-books available to homeschoolers at present.
Unlike the other two companies, the publisher of Dimensions Math provides neither in-house teacher training nor affordable online PD support, making it challenging for schools to adopt and properly use this curriculum. Price comparison of the three text-book based programs shows that Dimensions Math is more expensive than Primary Mathematics and less expensive than Math in Focus.
Primary Mathematics 2022 is similar to Math in Focus 2020 in the way the program structures its materials and lessons. Both programs offer two full-color consumable student books that combine instruction and practice. Both programs have a variety of enrichment and remedial resources to help educators accommodate different ability learners and to differentiate instruction. The publisher and distributor of Primary Mathematics and Math in Focus support school adoptions of the programs with in-house Professional Development both onsite and online.
The difference between the two programs is that Math in Focus 2020 has more content and many more teaching and learning activities than Primary Mathematics 2022 in both the student books and Teacher Editions. Site comparison suggests that Math in Focus has more online resources than Primary Mathematics. At the same time, Primary Mathematics 2020 offers more content and more teaching and learning activities than Dimensions Math.