Singapore Primary Math Explained sc-math

Singapore Primary Math - An Overview

Updated: 25 June, 2004

Primary Education In General Aims Of Mathematics Education
Mathematics Curriculum Objectives Of Mathematics Curriculum

Primary Education In General

Children in Singapore undergo six years of primary education starting from the age of six. The overall aim is to give them a good grasp of English Language, their Mother Tongue and Mathematics.

Primary education consists of two stages: a four year foundation stage from Primary One to Four followed by a two year orientation stage from Primary Five to Six. In the foundation stage, pupils are provided with a firm foundation in English Language, their Mother Tongue and Mathematics. Science is introduced from Primary Three onwards. Subjects such as Music, Art & Crafts, Civics and Moral Education, Health Education, Social Studies and Physical Education are also included in the curriculum. At the end of Primary Four, they are streamed according to their learning ability and placed in one of two streams for the orientation stage (Primary Five and Six). Less academically inclined pupils (EM3 stream) will focus on foundational knowledge. Pupils sit for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) at the end Primary Six. The PSLE, which is a national examination, assesses the pupils' abilities for placement in a secondary school course that best suits their learning pace and aptitude.

Exceptionally bright pupils are selected to join the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) at Primary 4. Towards the end of Primary 3, pupils are invited to sit for a Screening Test. About 3,000 pupils are then shortlisted to sit the Primary 3 Selection Test for admission to the GEP. Based on their relative performance in the Selection Test, about 1% of the cohort are invited to join the GEP. Pupils in the GEP are excluded from the Primary 4 streaming exercise.

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Aims Of Mathematics Education

The aim of mathematics education, as stated by Singapore's Ministry of Education (MOE), are to enable pupils to:

  • acquire and apply skills and knowledge relating to number, measure and space in mathematical situations that they will meet in life
  • acquire mathematical concepts and skills necessary for a further study in Mathematics and other disciplines
  • develop the ability to make logical deduction and induction as well as to explicate their mathematical thinking and reasoning skills through solving of mathematical problems
  • use mathematical language to communicate mathematical ideas and arguments precisely, concisely and logically
  • develop positive attitudes towards Mathematics including confidence, enjoyment and perseverance
  • appreciate the power and structure of Mathematics, including patterns and relationships, and to enhance their intellectual curiosity

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Mathematics Curriculum

The primary aim of the mathematics curriculum is to develop pupils' ability to solve mathematical problems. This ability depends on five inter-related components - Concepts, Skills, Processes, Attitudes and Metacognition.

  1. Concepts - the basic mathematical knowledge needed for solving mathematical problems:
    • Numerical concepts
    • Geometrical concepts
    • Algebraic concepts
    • Statistical concepts
  2. Skills - the topic-related manipulative skills that pupils are expected to perform when solving problems:
    • estimation and approximation
    • mental calculation
    • communication
    • use of mathematical tools
    • arithmetic manipulation
    • algebraic manipulation
    • handling data
  3. Processes - the thinking and heuristics involved in mathematical problem solving. Some thinking skills and heuristics which are applicable to problem solving at the primary level are:
     Thinking Skills:
    • Classifying
    • Comparing
    • Sequencing
    • Analysing Parts & Whole
    • Identifying Patterns & Relationships
    • Induction
    • Deduction
    • Spatial Visualisation
     Heuristics for problem solving:
    • Acting it out
    • Using a diagram/model
    • Making a systematic list
    • Looking for pattern(s)
    • Working backwards
    • Using before-after concept
    • Using guess and check
    • Making suppositions
    • Restating the problem in another way
    • Simplifying the problem
    • Solving part of the problem
  4. Attitudes - the affective aspects of mathematics learning such as:
    • enjoying doing mathematics
    • appreciating the beauty and power of mathematics
    • showing confidence in using mathematics
    • persevering in solving a problem
  5. Metacognition - the ability to monitor one's own thinking processes in problem solving.
    • constant and conscious monitoring of the strategies and thinking processes used in carrying out a task
    • seeking alternative ways of performing a task
    • checking the appropriateness and reasonableness of answers

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Objectives Of The Primary Mathematics Curriculum

MOE's objectves for the primary mathematics curriculum are to enable pupils to:

  • develop understanding of mathematical concepts:  Numerical  Geometrical  Statistical  Algebraic
  • perform operations with:  Whole numbers  Fractions  Decimals
  • recognise spatial relationships in two and three dimensions
  • recognise patterns and relationships in mathematics
  • use mathematical language, symbols and diagrams to represent and communicate mathematical ideas
  • present and interpret information in written, graphical, diagrammatic and tabular forms
  • use common systems of units
  • use geometrical instruments
  • perform simple algebraic manipulation
  • develop ability to perform mental calculation
  • develop ability to perform estimation
  • develop ability to check reasonableness of results
  • use mathematical concepts learnt to solve problems
  • use appropriate heuristics to solve problems
  • apply mathematics to everyday life problems
  • think logically and derive conclusions deductively
  • develop an inquiring mind through investigative activities
  • enjoy learning mathematics through a variety of activities

The above information are summarised from Singapore's Ministry of Education website at (link opens in new page)

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