Most adults in the United States solve math problems the way they were taught - using traditional arithmetic strategies. Why are so many schools switching to Singapore Math these days? Unlike traditional math, Singapore Math strategies emphasize number sense and a deep understanding of place value. Here are just a few powerful tools included in the Singapore Math program. 

Part-Whole Thinking

Numbers are generally taught as a series that are counted, yet students do not always comprehend their value. With Singapore Math students are taught part-whole thinking strategies to learn how numbers relate to each other. For instance, kids can be given a set of marbles and asked to group them in as many possible ways as they can. The visual below shows an example for the number 8. Students can then do a similar activity with pictures and finally move on to use strictly numbers. This whole process helps students determine number bonds and directly relates to fact families they will learn in later studies. This solid foundation of number sense is extremely helpful once students begin basic computations. 

Place Value Mats

Borrowing and carrying rules are simple enough, but most kids do not truly understand what the little numbers they are writing mean. With Singapore Math students study these concepts on place value mats with place value chips. They soon realize that there can only be nine 1’s in the ones place and that they can group ten 1’s together and replace them with one 10 on their mat. The sample below shows how when 9 is added to 8, ten of the 1’s must be regrouped into a 10 to get the final answer of 17. Once kids connect meaning with the numbers they are using to borrow and carry, the concepts become much clearer. 


Branching is a tool that can be used for most basic operations in math. Take a multiplication problem like the following: 

120 x 3 = ? 

Most people probably learned to stack these numbers vertically and to use standard multiplication rules to solve. 


 x  3 


Sure this problem is easy enough, but why not make it easier with branching? This strategy enables students to decompose equations into more manageable 10-based elements. An example is below. With enough practice, this branching can be done in one’s head!

120 x 3 = ? 

(100 x 3) + (20 x 3) + (0 x 3) 

300 + 60 + 0



Compensation is a fabulous tool for subtraction. A problem like the following can be solved very easily. 

80 - 58 = ? 

All one has to do is slide both numbers the same distance along the number line, making sure the first number (the minuend) does NOT end in a zero and the second number (the subtrahend) DOES end in a zero prior to subtracting. Thus, this problem can be turned into: 

82 - 60 = ? 

This problem is much easier to solve and can be done without paper and pencil after enough practice. The answer to this problem and the original one is 12. Go ahead - think of a similar problem and give the strategy a try! 

These are just a few helpful Singapore Math methods. There are many, many more. The goal of this program is to equip students with tools to make math less intimidating and possibly even fun!