Singapore Math: Primary Mathematics

Category : Math

Review In A Nutshell:
Title:Primary Mathematics – Singapore Math
Author/Publisher: Ministry of Education, Singapore
Overall Rating (1-10): 9 Value (1-10): 10
Flexibility (1-10): 7
Ages/Grades: K-5

Review: This is a VERY popular secular math program used by many homeschoolers brought to you, originally, from Singapore where math students get much higher scores on internationally administered tests than other countries. I was able to review the first three years of Singapore Math: Primary Mathematics with my children.

When you shop for this program, you will notice right away that the price is right. At under $10 per book, this is a true bargain in today’s overpriced curriculum market! Many people ask weather the textbook AND the workbook are both necessary. I, personally, started using the textbook but ended up not using it at all. I think it is a nice resource to have on hand and intended to rely on it for further explanation and teaching method for concepts my children might find difficult. But my own three children found the workbook to be explanation enough. This might not be true in the upper grades where concepts aren’t as intuitive. So let your child’s strength in math be your guide here. My three children absolutely love math so they dive in with two feet. If your child is math-reluctant, both the workbook and textbook are probably necessary for you.

Another common question about Singapore Math is at which level to place your child. This is easily determined by administering a placement test (found at You may be able to determine your child’s level simply by looking over the placement tests. Many people find that they need to start one grade level behind where their child ordinarily would be.

The books are designed with one textbook and two consumable workbooks per year. The total price for these three books is around $15 when purchased as a set. I bought mine through

The layout of the books is happy and welcoming which is why it initially appeals to so many children. It doesn’t seem overwhelming or full or pages of rote work. My children never complained about doing math while using this program because of the variety of problem-solving methods and games through the workbooks.

The method by which Primary Mathematics teaches math is one that I think really works to create math-loving children. It guides children through the ‘whys’ of math while teaching the ‘hows’. This program creates mathematical thinkers and problem solvers! Children who learn well with Singapore math will come away really understanding math on a level that many of us missed out on as children. Instead of teaching one rote method by which to solve all similar problems, Singapore Math teaches several different ways to look at the problem and really understand it. Mental Math is taught from the very beginning and becomes second nature throughout the program. Story problems are no longer something to fear because math makes sense! One thing I really love about Primary Mathematics is that it introduces skills that make sense together rather than following a traditional scope and sequence that might not have that skill introduces for several grades. For instance, multiplication and division are introduced early on because they have an intimate relationship with addition and subtraction and it makes sense to introduce them all together. Traditionally these concepts would not be introduced for 2 years or more later. I have found that my children naturally understand these concepts in the way they are presented and the traditional scope and sequence in many other programs just doesn’t make sense to them.

One frequent criticism of the program is that there is little repetition or revision of skills. Some children may need or parents may require more drill work than Singapore Math requires. In fact, in Singapore the children are drilled extensively in addition to this program. I, personally, find drill work to be unnecessary and a bore and my kids agree. But every child and family is different. Singapore Math offers additional extensions to its program for those who need this sort of supplementation. Hand in hand with this complaint, I have heard that parents with mathematically strong children often cruise through this program at break-neck pace. Again, for these parents, Singapore Math offers several supplements to draw out the program and they offer programs for older children as well so your child can (and should) be able to pace herself – whether that means break-neck or slow with lots of repetition. If your child is a kinesthetic learner, Singapore math might not be for you. I still think its methods of mathematical teaching are well worth it for all children but you might find the need for a hands-on supplement. Some people prefer Saxon math in the earlier grades and switch over to Primary Mathematics when Saxon becomes more rote and less kinesthetic. Another option for supplementing is the Math Bag from Common Sense Press which isn’t enough to qualify as a math curriculum but is a nice kinesthetic addition to learning mathematical problem solving.

If you are looking into Singapore Math: Primary Mathematics for the older child, please note that the books do not come with answer keys – these are available and must be purchased separately. A prior complaint about Singapore Math was its lack of teacher resources but this has been solved through the creation of Home Instructor’s Guides through 4B. I have not seen or used these so I can not attest to the necessity or benefit of them although others have said great things about them. Another prior complaint is that Singapore Math, being international, does not use US methods of measure or currency. There are now US versions of Singapore Math that are available which remedy this complaint.

Bottom Line: If you are afraid to teach your child math and did not do well yourself, this program will teach you, too! It introduces math in a way that isn’t traditional in the US and results in children who really think and understand math without any of the drill work or repetition that turns so many of us off to math. Those who start with Singapore Math in the early years seem to have better luck with it and some require hands-on supplements or drill-work supplements but I consider Singapore Math: Primary Mathematics to be an innovative and successful complete math curriculum

Singapore Math: Primary Mathematics can be purchased online here or at

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