Problem Solving | Mathematics in Singapore

Problem solving

 What has mathematics got to do with problem solving ? Actually a lot , especially in Singapore

Problem solving | Singapore Mathematics

Singapore’s Mathematics  is very known around the world and many countries has started many programs modelling the success of the Singapore story .  This trend started when Mathematics educators start noticing  that  Singapore has been doing extremely well  in both 4th and 8th grades in the Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) comparison assessments in 1995, 1999, and 2003, and in the top three in 2007 . Solving Mathematical problems is key in learning mathematics

Problem solving | Singapore’s approach to problem solving in mathematics

The Singapore approach uses models such as bars to solve problems . They are sometimes called “bar modeling” or “model drawing” . The use of “modeling” allows the students to handle information better , deal with complexity and at the same time communicate their thoughts using the visual models that they can manipulate . Even complicated worded problems are being broken down into models to ease understanding of the problem .  The Singapore approach in mathematics problem solving allows students to identify relevant information , explore patterns and relationships , make hypothesis and apply the knowledge  and tools to solve a particular problem . [see full report ]

Watch the video below

Problem solving | The back of the napkin approach

Dan Roam’s approach to problem solving through visual thinking is very similar to the Singapore mathematics problem solving in the sense that both make use of “models” to demonstrate complex problems ,  concepts , or things that are abstract . The “models” allows communication between people and  to help understand  the problem better . Information is categorized or patterns identified so that we can establish some form of relationship or coordinates that are crucial to problem solving  . Here is an article about visual thinking in Singapore Mathematics and Dan Roam [see report]

Below are a list of websites showing examples of “models” , drawing of pictures and finding patterns that are adopted in the Singapore mathematics problem solving  .


In a n nutshell , pictures and models are important in problem solving , base on the results  in the Singapore Mathematics .   Students are not only able to retain information longer but the visual aids help to understand a complex problem easier , as seen in the case of complex worded mathematical problems .  It allows better communication and participation which is ideal in a work place .

Problem solving | Use of pictures for communication

Here is another demonstration of how a science teacher uses pictures , in fact cartoons to explain certain theories and to  generate excitement and interest among his students . Meet Singapore Engineer turn Science teacher , Otto Fong during an interview with CNA . See the video below


We use pictures and models to explain , especially when when we try to explain items or issues that cannot be seen , such as gravitational forces , electrons , or things that are abstract , or a  concept  or an architectural  design . So that is why the course “The Back of the napkin” is formulated to address this need . From the results seen ,   we certainly cannot deny the power of pictures in problem solving


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