Don’t skip the thought bubbles in the Singapore math textbook.

Teaching Tip:

With Singapore math, how do you know what to emphasize each day?

If you are using Singapore math, it can be a bit confusing sometimes to know what to emphasize. Typically there is one main concept for each day of plans. So, how do you decipher what that concept is? Here is one tip that we have found helpful.

Don’t skip the thought bubbles in the Singapore math textbook.

The “word bubbles” or “thinking bubbles” in each textbook lesson are very important. These bubbles are drawn next to children in the textbook to show what they are thinking. The children are sharing the thinking process your child is to go through as he/she solves the problems in the lesson. Many times this process is a bit different than the way you learned to do problems like these.

The Singapore method of thinking is found within the word bubbles.

It is worth the extra time it takes to decipher the process the thinking bubble is showing. This is because the Singapore method is “talked through” in the thinking bubble. So, read the thought bubbles aloud as you go over the textbook lesson with your child. Help your child discover the process being described in the bubble, and then apply it in the lesson’s problems.

If you haven’t been paying attention to the thought bubbles in the textbook, now is a good time to start!

So, if you haven’t been paying attention to the word or thought bubbles in the textbook up until now, you may want to start. I didn’t notice how important these were until we went up higher and higher in the Singapore Primary math levels. When my next little ones started Singapore though, I emphasized these from the beginning! Try it and see what a difference it makes over time.


What factors helped you decide to use Singapore Math?

Dear Carrie

What factors helped you decide to use Singapore Math?

Dear Carrie,

I really love Heart of Dakota, but I am torn about making a math decision! I’m curious why Singapore math was chosen as the math option for the curriculum packages. I do realize we may choose a program of our own. However, I am simply curious what drew you to choose Singapore over other programs. So, I guess my question is what factors helped you in deciding Singapore would be the one? Thank you!


“Ms. Please Share the Factors That Led You to Decide to Use Singapore Math”

Dear “Ms. Please Share the Factors That Led You to Decide to Use Singapore Math,”

I fear you may be sorry you asked! Bear with me! I have a rather long reply to this tough question. As you mentioned, you are more than welcome to choose your own math curriculum to use with any of our programs. We do realize that there are many excellent math programs to use. However, we have tried many of the big-name, and not so big-name, math programs for at least a year each. We found many of them didn’t fit our family well for a variety of reasons.

One deciding factor was many other math programs require too much teacher presentation and take too much time. 

I found many of the math programs we tried were just too time-consuming in the amount of teacher presentation required. As we added more children to our homeschool, I realized a 30 minute math presentation for one kiddo would quickly turn into 2 hours of math presentation when multiplied times my 4 boys. That would leave precious little time for the many other necessary school subjects. This was one of the deciding factors that helped me say ‘no’ to other math programs we tried.

Another deciding factor was some of the other math programs had too much prep, too much planning, or too many math problems.

Similarly, I found some of the programs required too much preparation or planning ahead of time prior to teaching. When I wasn’t prepared, my students were wasting time waiting on me. Other programs had way too much drill or too many problems daily for my non-math loving oldest son. So, I found I was tweaking which problems to do daily and eventually the programs hardly resembled the original program anymore. This was another deciding factor that led me away from using other math programs.

The main deciding factors were Singapore Math has short lessons, little prep, and higher-level thinking; plus, it is economical and in a convenient workbook form.

In keeping with the Charlotte Mason philosophy for math, I wanted a program with short lessons, some hands-on, almost no prep., in a workbook form (to cut down on time spent copying problems) that emphasized higher-level thinking and reasoning along with computation. I also wanted it to be economical if possible. So, when we began with Singapore we knew we’d found the fit for us. These were some of the main deciding factors for choosing Singapore Math.

Another deciding factor was I could easily write hands-on lessons to accompany the younger Singapore Math levels and schedules to utilize the original Singapore Math pacing.

Where the program lacked hands-on in the early years, I added in lessons in our guides to include that. The one problem we have found with Singapore is that the clean page layout and the few problems on each page makes it easy to assign too much daily, thus complicating what should be a short and sweet program. We compensate for that by including schedules in our guides that follow the original Singapore pacing, completing 2 workbooks in one school year. So, yet another deciding factor was I could easily write hands-on math lessons and schedules to fill in what I felt was lacking.

Multiple levels of Singapore Math plans in each guide help each child to have plans for the placement that fits best.

Our plans phase out the hands-on teacher lessons starting with 3A/3B and move toward the textbook/workbook schedule only at that point. With a strong hands-on background from the previous Singapore years, we’ve found the kiddos are ready for that change. We’ve included multiple levels of Singapore Math in each of our guides, so each child can be appropriately placed and have plans to accommodate that placement. We continue with Singapore Math through 6A/6B. Since Singapore has such a solid base in problem-solving and reasoning, and an advanced scope and sequence, the switch to almost any other program after that is a fairly painless one.

In Closing

In closing, the fact that I could include multiple levels of math in each guide and the fact that the transition to a different math program would be fairly easy were both final deciding factors in my decision. So, to make a long story short, all kids are different. We know one math program will not fit them all. But, we do want to share what we’ve found with other programs. We hope that Singapore Math is a good fit for some of you as well.


Have you ever considered skip counting as a math help?

Teaching Tip

Have you ever considered skip counting as a math help?

As soon as our kiddos start learning about multiplication, we teach them to skip count.  They learn to skip count by singing along with skip counting songs. Our boys learned songs for the 2’s on up through the 12’s. For example, for the 2’s they learned to count 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18.

Why is skip counting a helpful math tool?

Skip counting makes doing multiplication much easier.  It is also very helpful once kiddos get to least common multiple and greatest common factor.  A myriad of other math-related tasks such as dividing are also easier if kids know how to skip count!

Skip counting doesn’t replace the need to memorize math facts.

It’s important to note that skip counting should not replace the need for a child to eventually know his facts. However, it is a great intermediary step.  It is much more fun than straight fact memorization when just learning about multiplication and division.

What can you use for skip counting help?

We’ve enjoyed the Skip Count Kids Bible Heroes CD, but you could use any skip count method you like.  The CD we used is now available in Mp3 and digital versions by clicking here. 

This is the only thing we’ve ever added to Singapore math, and we’ve found it pays big dividends for years to come! A side benefit is that even our little ones know the songs from an early age.


Summer is coming! Are you allowing distractions into your day?

How much time are you spending on language arts and math?

Help for a Child Who Has a Math Disability

Pondering Placement

Question: Hello to the Austin family! My 11 yo son is in Preparing… in Heart of Dakota now and doing great going full-speed! However, math is another story.  Could you please help me with placement in Heart of Dakota’s Singapore Math for my son with a math disability?

A Little Background on His Math Struggles

My 11 yo son used another math program (ACE) this year and has 1 ½ books left before he is done with the 2nd grade level. This has not been the best math curriculum for him. But, we used it as he could do it by himself, due to other time constraints I had. I now have more time to spend with him on the subjects in which he struggles. I am considering the Singapore math Heart of Dakota recommends. My question is if Singapore can be used successfully with a child who has a math disability? Thank you for help in pondering this placement!

Reply:  Thanks for sharing about your son’s math background!

This is an interesting dilemma. With the age of your son in mind, and considering the challenges he has had in math thus far, Singapore Primary Math could work well. The reason for this is because it is easier to move at a varying and/or accelerated pace through Singapore than it is with other programs that are more lock-step and have large volumes of daily work for each level.

Be sure to give the Singapore Math placement test first!

Singapore Math has a free and accurate placement test.  I would definitely give him the placement test, by clicking here.  Be sure to give him the placement test for the Primary U.S. 3rd Edition. I would begin with the 2A test and see how he does. I would be inclined to think he might begin in 2B, but with testing you will know better.

Be sure to assist your son during math time by sitting near him and drawing his attention to the word bubbles!

Since math is a challenging area, I think you will have to commit to sitting with him or being available nearby to help often as needed. Be sure to teach the Singapore method in the word bubbles of each lesson, as this will help! Then, I would move quickly through what your son knows and spend longer on what he does not. In this way, you could cover more ground. Be sure to use the U.S. Edition of Singapore, as the other editions have too much volume added to them which will slow you down.

Once you place your son, you can click here and scroll down on the following to order the needed levels of Singapore. This honestly may be a good option with only a semester or so of instruction time to move forward. I hope this helps!



A Smooth Transition from Singapore Primary Math to High School Algebra

Dear Carrie, 

We have used Heart of Dakota from the very beginning and loved it! My son will be in Missions to Modern Marvels this year. He has now completed all of the Singapore Primary Mathematics books through 6A/6B, which he finished in Revival to Revolution. I am a bit confused by all the different math options this year. I’m guessing we will transition to Videotext or No-Nonsense Algebra?  Foerster’s Algebra seems too much for an 8th grader! Is there a math choice that is the natural progression after finishing all the Singapore math books? I maybe should add that he is good at math and is even looking forward to more algebra! I don’t want to push him too hard, but he also will be discouraged if he’s not being challenged. So, what math would be the best bridge to get him from Singapore 6B to algebra in World Geography?


“Ms. Confused about Math”

Dear “Ms. Confused about Math,”

There are a lot of terrific things about the Singapore Primary Mathematics U.S. Edition 1A through 6B! However, one difficulty is that it stops after 6B and switches to a new writer and a new format! As high school approaches, it can be tough to figure out a good transition between one math program and another. Since one size doesn’t fit all, we offer many different ways to meet your math goals depending on your student.

My son found the transition from Singapore Math 6A/6B to Principles of Mathematics to be seamless.

This past year my third son used Principles of Mathematics Book 2 after exiting Singapore 6A/6B, and it worked well! He went into Principles of Mathematics Book 2 right after Singapore 6A/6B without ever doing Principles of Mathematics Book 1. The transition was seamless even though the programs are different. We had a good year with some concepts being very easy, and others being a bit harder.

Even for a strong math student, Foerster’s Algebra I is better saved for a student’s freshman year.

Even though your son is good at math, you’re right, Foerster’s Algebra is better saved for a student’s freshman year. It would be a challenge to do Foerster’s Algebra I as an 8th grader. It is a wonderful course, but it is also very rigorous. The problem-solving that makes Foerster’s math stand out also requires a more mature student to process what is being asked. So, having a bit more maturity on one’s side before heading into Foerster would be a bonus.

Principles of Mathematics Book 2 provides a good transition from Singapore Math 6A/6B to high school Algebra 1.

If you have an 8th grader coming out of 6A/6B successfully, I’d suggest doing Principles of Mathematics Book 2 next. Then, you could begin either VideoText, Foerster’s Algebra 1, or No-Nonsense Algebra as a freshman. This would help your student firm up any needed skills, making the transition to Algebra smoother in the long run. It would also make the 8th grade year less intense math-wise. Ultimately, this path will give your student a great foundation for the rigor of the math coming in high school!