Why the Singapore Style of Teaching Math is so Successful

Why the Singapore Style of Teaching Math is so Successful

Singapore’s Ministry of Education made huge changes in the curriculum they used for Mathematics from kindergarten through sixth grade in the 1980s and completely revolutionized the ways in which Maths was being taught by the teachers. They topped various international student assessment charts. This resulted in wide adoption of “Singapore math,” a term coined in the US, in countries like Israel, Canada, the US and the United Kingdom. With time, the textbooks published by the Ministry of Education became popular and various companies started providing textbooks based on the same format in various countries. Hence it can be said that the Singapore style of teaching math has been successful and being used around the world. Let’s find out what’s so special about this teaching style and how is it different from traditional approaches.

Quality, not Quantity

Curriculum, and how it is taught in Singapore style of teaching plays a huge role in the success of this teaching method. Students are not forced to memorize the concepts, in fact, they are taught fewer concepts in greater depth rather than forcing them to cram the concepts just for the tests. This helps the students in learning mathematical concepts which they won’t forget in their lifetime, and also helps their tutors because they get to teach less number of things in a definite period of time. The concepts taught gradually increase in their complexity in the curriculum, so that they are in accordance to the learning capacity of the children at that particular age. As the academic year progresses, the students master the subject which eliminates the need to teach the same topics again in the next grade.

Incorporation of Real Life Examples

The students are not taught concepts and topics in a dry manner. It is a three step process. Firstly, the concepts are introduced using real life examples and models like cubes, and other geometrical figures so that they can see what the topic actually is and how does it work in real life. Then they are taught using the pictorial format. Everything is explained using figures on paper and the students are asked to work on the paper. At last, the abstract is taught. As we can see there is a gradual increase in the complexity of the topic. This method of teaching concepts is the opposite of traditional teaching method where the abstract is introduced first and there is almost no overlap between what is being taught and the real world. So this strategy of teaching concepts is one of the huge factor why the Singapore math so successful. The students focus on how and why the concepts work, rather than just plugging values in equations and finding the correct answers to pass the tests. The students are kept engaged in the topic and it keeps them motivated to learn more. They may learn the concepts at different paces but in the end they are at the same level.

Standards are met

Just because Singapore method of teaching teaches fewer concepts than traditional methods, it doesn’t mean that the students are not learning enough. All the topics that are needed to be taught are in the curriculum. The concepts are taught in an in-depth manner, therefore the students understand them better and score better. That is the reason that Singapore maintains its position in international student assessment charts such as Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) well above countries like the US and the United Kingdom. That is why its success cannot be denied. Teachers and institutes around the globe should take note and adapt Singapore math.


Singapore’s method of teaching maths is undeniably a successful method of teaching students maths by focusing on fewer concepts and by using real world examples and then gradually moving over to abstracts. It definitely has edge over the traditional teaching methods.


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