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10 Top Tips for Trying the Singapore Model Method with your Kids


Count things with objects

Try counting familiar things together like the number of people in the room, kids’ ages, or goals in football matches, using concrete objects like counters, buttons or small stones, lining them up one by one. If nothing’s to hand use fingers.

Get some interlocking cubes

Interlocking cubes are great and can be bought for a few pounds, or your child’s nursery or school may be able to lend you some. Try carrying round a few to count things when you’re out and about. They are also good for kids to play with to keep them occupied.

Use cut-out pictures

Draw pictures on paper and cut them out to use as counters with your kids. Or print out our handy Singapore Model Cutout Pictures and use them at home with your kids, to count people, ages, goals, coins or fruit.

Do basic arithmetic with objects

You can talk about most basic arithmetic using concrete objects, adding objects to the line, taking them away. ‘Multiply’ literally means ‘many layers’ and you can show times tables by layering rows one on top of the other.

Use interactive blocks

If you have an iphone or Android mobile why not try BBC Skillswise’s interactive blocks: text SKILLSWISE to 81010 or if you are reading this on your mobile device preview the interactive times tables blocksPlease note texts to the BBC cost 12-15p, interactive not compatible with all phones.

Draw pictures

Give kids pens and paper to draw things they count, lined up in a row. Encourage them to draw boxes around the pictures. The fact they have drawn the pictures gives them a sense of ownership and means they’ll probably be more confident in talking about them.

Don’t rush to use figures

Hold off from using number symbols until your child is really confident with concrete and pictorial representations and can make the link. So they will always have a ready way of picturing what the symbol means as a fall-back.

Start with figures 1 to 9

When you do start using symbols to label drawn boxes, stick to 1 to 9 at first to build confidence, so one figure relates to one quantity. The leap from the figure 9 to the figure 10 involves concepts of place value and zero which can take time to understand.

Brush up your own maths to help your kids

Most of us feel a bit rusty with maths, especially the new methods used in schools these days. Why not be a learning role model to your kids by joining a local maths class for adults? You can find out more about local courses/workshops from MathsExCEL programmes. Or brush up your maths skills online with maths websites for adults like BBC Skillswise.

Go slowly to build confidence

It takes time for children to get really confident with the basics. The Singapore curriculum actually covers less than the UK national curriculum in the first few years, instead taking more time to build confidence in the basics. But this pays off in spades later on.

TOP TIP: Be positive

Above all be positive. Enjoy playing with and counting objects together, celebrate effort and praise often. Real learning involves making lots of mistakes. Try to see mistakes as positive things that highlight deeper misunderstandings. Why did I think that? Kids have years of maths lessons ahead of them and every ounce of self-confidence helps them to succeed. Boosting children’s understanding with objects and pictures is key.

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Can the Singapore Method Help your Children Learn Maths?



Singapore teaches maths better than most countries including the UK, according to international rankings for secondary pupils.

The difference starts at an early age.

There are many reasons but one key factor is its step-by-step approach that can be used at home or in the classroom.

Young children are happy playing with blocks or drawing pictures. But they can find number symbols, like 5 + 2 = 7, mystifying.

So the Singapore method begins by allowing children to start learning about maths by playing with real objects, blocks or cut-out pictures.

They build confidence with the basic ideas of adding and taking away. There is then a second stage of drawing pictures representing the objects. And only later do they gradually start to add numbers to their drawings.

Maths without symbols?

5 planesStraight to the symbolic – a leap too far for many children?

In education systems in the UK, pre-school children are often introduced to maths and to number symbols at the same time. For instance through brightly-coloured counting books which show a picture of an apple – or a kite or a butterfly – next to a ‘1’. Two new things next to a ‘2’. Three new things next to a ‘3’. Culminating in a loose group of ten things next to a ’10’.

But number symbols like 5 or 10 as well as symbols like + or – are often difficult for children to understand. And if they are introduced too quickly, there is a risk that young children will struggle and from then on never fully recover their confidence in maths. Failing repeated tests on symbolic sums at school only deepens their anxiety and they soon learn that maths is not for them.

The Singapore method illustrated in more detail below goes more gradually – from handling “concrete” things, to drawing one-to-one “pictorial” iconic representations of them, to eventually understanding and using the mysterious “abstract” symbols with confidence.

1. Lining up objects in a row

Real objects, cut-outs and blocks

Children start by counting familiar things using blocks or cut-out pictures they can physically line up in a row. For instance counting pieces of fruit, their own ages, or people in the room. With one block or cut-out picture for each orange, or year, or person.

They can learn most basic maths concepts with these objects. For instance add objects to the row, or take them away, to understand adding and subtraction. Or split a row in the middle to understand halving.

2. Drawing boxes around pictures

A drawing of 3 oranges in boxes

Then children start to draw pictures on paper of the things they are counting, with a box around each picture. So there’s one box for each thing they are counting. Over time they drop the pictures and just draw the boxes.

3. Labelling the boxes

A drawn box labelled with a 3.

Gradually, once they are confident with drawing boxes to count objects, children start to write the number of boxes as a figure above the drawing.

Eventually they no longer need to draw all the boxes. They just draw one long box or bar and label it with the number. This step away from one-to-one representations to symbols is crucial and it may take a year or more for some children to become confident with it. But the benefits later on are worth it.

The Singapore Model Method

This model of numbers as labelled bars is known as the Singapore model, and it’s a tool children can use to understand almost any concept in maths, including multiplication and division and even algebra.

Professor Lianghuo Fan, former editor-in-chief of Singapore’s maths textbooks, has researched the reasons for Singapore’s success in maths. As he puts it: “People have different views about the reasons for Singapore students’ performance, but one thing that is universally agreed is that the Singapore model method is key.”

You can see examples of different stages of the model in this slideshow:

Algebra bar modelIn a year group there are 50 children. There are 10 fewer girls than boys. How many boys? The model can help visualize the unknown quantity. You can see that x + x – 10 = 50. If you add the 10 you get x + x = 60. So x = 30.
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Help your Bookworm Child Start Loving Mathematics

This is a guest post by Davis Miller:

As far as math is concerned, most kids in Singapore are not making the grade. Former math teacher at Stanford, Jo Boaler, published  What’s Math Got to Do with It?: How Parents and Teachers Can Help Children Learn to Love Their Least Favorite Subject in which she offers great advice for parents struggling to help their children love math. She outlines practical solutions meant to change perspectives including study strategies and tips to make even the keenest book lover appreciate math. Boaler believes that kids could be interested in mathematical ideas as long as they’re fascinating and eye-catching. Games, easy puzzles, and patterns are great ways of making bookworm kids fond of math.


Math fun with M&Ms

Who doesn’t love M&Ms? They’re colorful, fun to play with and of course, delicious. Kids will love to sort them by color, count them, and eat them. It’s equally important for parents to ask their kids questions like: “How many green M&Ms do you think you have?” “How many M&Ms are in total?” Appealing to their senses and tricking them into getting out of their comfort zone is an excellent way of helping them love math. A lot of parents think that there’s no way to make their bookworm children appreciate mathematics. As far as kids are concerned, remember this: there’s always a way to catch their attention, you just have to find it.

Every day chores may lead to math opportunities

Most every day chores involve math skills. Therefore, as a loving parent you should find the best ways to make your kids love it. Shopping, cooking, planning trips, cleaning, they’re all related in one way or another to mathematics. For example, you should start by including daily activities that include numbers, but try not to scare your kids away with demanding tasks. Make a pie and ask for help from your kid. Let him measure ingredients and the experience won’t just be educative, it will also be entertaining. Your toddler may be a book person, but still, who can say No to pie?

Math and literature are like yin and yang

While that may be true, we all know that opposites attract. Did you ever think of recommending your child a book with math concepts? It doesn’t have to be something obvious, and as long as the text is perfectly combined with the math, your kid will love it. Parents must constantly find ways to draw their children’s attention. You could organize weekly ‘book clubs’ and spend more time together. Appeal to his logical side and try to see if you can make him more curious about math. Early childhood brings about an array of hobbies, so your kid will want to be doctor today, a pilot tomorrow, and who knows, maybe he will end up an engineer 20 years from now.

Teach your kids to play Chess

Rather simple at first, chess is a really complex strategy game. It requires great analytical skills, so you can’t know if your kids have them or not unless you teach them. Take things slow and make them understand the rules first. Try as much as you can to do it in a fun way, and try not to put pressure on your toddlers. To make them feel good about themselves, let them win every once in a while. It’s really important for parents to be supportive as far as learning math is concerned, and board games are a fun, engaging way to make such an exact science seem more laidback.cheese

Math is Everywhere

We cannot help but admit that math is everywhere. As a parent, you need to take advantage of that if you want to make your bookworm kid love numbers more than his beloved Juggle Book by Kipling. Numbers are constantly present in our daily lives, and to make things interesting for kids you need to come up with facts. Watch morning weathercasts together and calculate simple equations, use fractions for fruit divisions, and if you just bought a lottery ticket, allow your kid to fill in the numbers.

As parents we cannot force our kids into liking math; what we can do is make use of smart techniques that will make them like it. You may not realize it, but fun learning methods could awaken your child’s interest in math. Without proper encouragement you won’t be able to convince a bookworm child to give up reading.


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Motivating Your Child to Do Homework and Study


  • Is your child motivated to do homework and study or do you need to ‘strongly encourage’ your child to do the work?
  • Has homework time become a battleground?

I understand how difficult this can be for you once things get out of hand but DO NOT DESPAIR.  In my last article  Teaching Young Children To Study, I explained the importance of teaching even young children how to study so they can become independent learners at school. A key component of being an independent learner is motivation.

Here is the brief version:


For you to be able to help your child overcome homework problems you first need to become a detective like Sherlock Holmes. The important thing to keep in mind is that there is no point forcing your child to do work that he/she is not able to do. All that will happen is that you will both get more emotional and will not be able to think clearly or work with each other effectively. There could be a variety of reasons why your child won’t get on with homework such as:

  • doesn’t understand the work
  • hasn’t or can’t read the instructions properly
  • doesn’t know where to start
  • lacks the basic skills to do the work
  • hasn’t got the materials needed to complete the task

STEP 2: Break the work that needs to be done into a series of SIMPLE STEPS

Thus get your child to DO ONE STEP A TIME.


Rome was n0t built in a day. Your goal should be to help your child get a few more skills and a bit more confidence every day. Research shows that the best way to build up good habits is to take small but regular steps. Just do as much in a sitting as you can both manage without getting tense. In the early stages it is often much more effective to do three 10-minute sessions than one 30-minute session.

Remember, if your child is not doing her/his homework effectively at the moment, then small positive changes on a regular basis is far better than no change at all.

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Top 5 Brain Boosting Maths Websites

You thought that the internet was good for nothing when it comes to your kids, right? Check out these 5 brain boosting maths websites that will turn your child into a mathematical genius in no time!

Boy Typing on Laptop

We always blame the internet for being such a nuisance in our children’s lives, but what if we told you that the very same internet can help your kids with maths? In fact, come to think of it, the internet actually has a plethora of free and easily available resources for any maths newbie. We combed through several websites to bring you some of the best go-to maths sites, which are sure to help you raise the genius your child was meant to be!

1. Yummy Math

This site is a great resource for both students and teachers to learn and understand the relevance of maths in everyday life. The examples are current and interesting from calculating the cost of owning an iPhone to deciphering the ‘greatness’ or value of sports players through simple equations. The real-life examples provided in this maths website will engage students to think about how they can use and incorporate maths in their daily lives.

hamburger qn Top 5 brain boosting maths websites

2. A+ Click
A+ Click is a great maths website that offers thousands of illustrated mathematical problems, which range from kindergarten level to the more advanced algebraic equations. This site is especially useful for visual-spatial learners, since a visual model accompanies each equation. The tests adapt to each student’s ability depending on how fast they can correctly answer five questions consecutively.

Check out what A+ Click looks like!

Check out what A+ Click looks like! >>

3. SuperKids Math
Sometimes looking at the computer screen for too long can tire your children’s eyes. This maths website site is great because it provides printables of worksheets that can be customised. Whatever level your child may be at, you can just input the subject as well as the minimum and maximum numbers to be used and a custom worksheet will be created. All with a click of a button — no need for expensive assessment books anymore. Definitely a site to be bookmarked!

Screen Shot 2013 05 01 at 12.14.26 PM Top 5 brain boosting maths websites

4. Math Playground
A playground is for kids to get a workout and have tons of fun, which is exactly what Math Playground’s motto is too. With interactive games, fun puzzles and visual problems, Math Playground definitely gives your child’s brain a robust workout! Kids and parents can choose from a wide array of topics that feature problem sums, flashcards and printables. The graphics on this maths website are very colourful, and feature graphic games reminiscent of video games. We are sure that your kid will not be bored!

Screen Shot 2013 05 01 at 12.10.25 PM Top 5 brain boosting maths websites

5. Fun Brain
Can brainy stuff be fun? Of course, it can! And this ‘fun’ that we speak of is certainly the centre of attraction when it comes to Fun Brain. This maths website is a chock full of fun games that encourage children to pick up and practice maths skills. Topics such as fractions, multiplication as well as algebra, are weaved into racing and soccer games, which will engage and excite your child. Best part is they may not even be aware that they are studying a subject like maths!

fun brain Top 5 brain boosting maths websites

RELATED: Math Drills app: ‘techy’ teacher’s delight

Tell us if you’ve tried any of these top 5 brain-boosting sites! Is there a specific maths website that your child preferred more?

Check out this video of a child reviewing the Math Playground website: