Thursday, May 1, 2014

Curriculum Review: Singapore Math

We have now used Singapore Math for two years (Kinder and 1st), so I thought I'd write a quick review!

Singapore Math is the only math that I have used, so unfortunately I don't have any comparisons to make with other curricula. I happen to have an experienced (graduated) homeschool mama friend who happens to be a math genius (she leads the homeschool math competition group and now is a math professor), so when it came time to select a math program, I simply emailed her.

"Which math should we use?"


End of search. I ordered it, I received it, I used it.

(I should say that this friend recommends Singapore only through 6th grade - she does not recommend the higher levels.)

That being said, here's a quick run-down:


- At first I didn't understand their method of teaching. It was very different from how I was taught, with straight up-and-down addition/subtraction - i.e. "cancel the nine, make it an eight, carry the one," etc. There is none of that. However, I realized that the foundation they lay is a solid one for understanding the concepts mentally, and it is very sound.

- On the whole, we've been pretty happy with it. And I really trust my friend's recommendation, so I'm glad we started here.

- Singapore comes highly recommended and is one of the recommended choices included in Sonlight curriculum packages - which is high praise indeed! (They also recommend Horizons, Saxon, and Teaching Textbooks.)

The Not-So-Good:

- I dislike having to buy both textbooks (non-consumable) and workbooks (consumable).* Technically speaking, it is a money saver for the consumer, because the textbooks can be reused for the next student. However, I know very well that by the time we have another student come up the line, there will be a new edition out and I'll have to buy new textbooks to match the workbooks. This is a big pain in the neck. Additionally, I dislike having to flip back and forth between the textbook and the workbook. I would rather have one big consumable workbook that includes the lesson and the practice problems, and just re-buy for each student. That would be a lot simpler.

- The first and second grade materials each include two workbooks and two textbooks, each costing about $11 each. I find that a bit pricey, especially when it is just one subject for one student.

- They work a year ahead. For some reason, people seem to find this something to boast about. I do not. We held our son back a year on purpose so that he would be developmentally ready for academics rather than having to force readiness. Having a curriculum work a year ahead basically undoes this completely.

- They move too quickly. I find that they are expecting huge jumps (double digit subtraction and addition) without having laid the groundwork solidly with basic [5+2]. This makes it very difficult to progress when the foundations have not been sufficiently laid. And I am quite sure that our son could not do quite a few of the tasks that were taught this year, because I had to do such heavy coaching to get him through them. I would be much happier if he had a good mastery of the before mentioned [5+2] concepts (the basics) rather than a crummy (or non-existent) mastery of more advanced concepts. Additionally, this led to a lot of frustration this year - me losing my temper and/or pulling my hair out because I could not get him to do what seemed basic to me (but obviously wasn't to him because it was just too much). (The Sonlight catalogue notes this weakness and recommends supplemental practice of the basics to go along with Singapore curricula. We may have to look into that.)

- No color in the workbooks. This may be good or bad, depending on the student. But it does make it a bit dull. A bit of color would have been nice - even one color! Additionally, doing the sections on money without color was downright difficult, because the coins look very much the same sketched in black and white.

- I would prefer to have fewer problems per lesson in the workbooks. I think they overdo it a bit - more so with each grade. However, this is a common issue with many math curricula.

- It requires quite a bit of writing. We are trying not to emphasize writing in the early years, so I have been splitting the lessons in half - he writes half, and I write the other (he still does the work). Again, fewer problems would be much better.

Would I Buy It Again?

Well, that's a hard question - because again, I haven't used any other curricula to compare with it.

However, using Singapore has given me a good idea of what works and what doesn't work for our family. I would definitely be open to switching curricula, and here is what I would be looking for:
  • A curricula that produces only one or two consumable workbooks per (lower) grade, not a combo of workbooks and textbooks.
  • Fewer practice problems per lesson.
  • Does NOT "work a year ahead."
  • Lays a solid foundation before moving on to more advanced concepts. 
We have long considered switching to Teaching Textbooks in third grade (which is where Teaching Textbooks begins - they don't have lower grades yet), and we may do so. I also like the look of Horizons math (you can see sample pages at their website).For now we've purchased the second grade set of Singapore, so we'll be using it. Our decision at the end of this coming year will really depend on how second grade goes with Singapore. I'll let you all know how it goes!

Fellow home educators, what are your recommendations for math? Any other Singapore users out there? What are your thoughts?

Want some other math curricula to consider? Try:

* This applies to only 1st and 2nd grades (and possibly further; I don't know). Kindergarten is just two consumable workbooks. There are also home instructor guides (which I do not buy) which will add to the price.


  1. If you're having problem with work books regarding Singapore math text books, I recommend you this site:MSA Singapore Math Tutorials.

  2. Thanks, James! We decided to go with a different curriculum and are very happy with our new choice, but I'm glad there are resources out there for Singapore families. Thanks for visiting!


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