What Is S.A.M?

About Singapore Math

As a result of a monumental change that took place in 1982 within the Singaporean education system, today Singapore students are ranked amongst the highest in the world in Mathematics and Science.

In the years preceding the 1980’s, Singapore, a third world country, ranked at the lowest levels in education, comparable to other third world countries. In 1982, a revolutionary change took place. The Singapore government mandated the Ministry of Education (MOE) of Singapore to overhaul its entire education system with the ultimate goal of increasing students’ understanding in Math, Sciences and Literature.

Prior to the 1980’s, the method by which mathematics was being taught emphasized procedural and computational mathematics. With the advent of calculators and computers, the MOE of Singapore understood that mathematics had to become more than just a student’s ability to solve equations using calculations and memorized procedures. They understood that future success in math would hinge on the student’s ability to understand the math itself.

The paradigm shift that took place in the early 1980’s was the realization that problem solving, not computational and procedural learning, was to be the foundation for the future of Singapore Mathematics. Armed with this new directive, the MOE set out to build a world-class education system based on applying different leading psychological, educational, and socio-economic studies of the day. These studies dealt with the best ways to teach information, the best ways to learn information, the best ways to retain information, and the best ways to understand information.

Many other countries may acknowledge the importance of problem solving in mathematics, but no other country has embraced problem solving as the core of its mathematics program. Singapore recognized the importance of problem solving and developed methodologies to effectively give their students the tools that were needed to become proficient problem solvers in math and in all other aspects of their lives.

Singapore Math uses unique and effective techniques to teach problem solving. The Bar Model Method is one such technique. This method is used as a visual approach allowing children to understand, interpret and conceptualize word problems by translating the words of the problem into a visual representation. Since 1981, the science was and continues to be indisputable. Visualization is a much more effective tool compared to comprehension alone when decoding critical information in problems. Based on Singapore’s overall success, this decoding process proves transferable to other aspects of life.

Singapore students continue to rank highest in the world in Mathematics and Science, but more importantly Singapore as a nation of no natural resources, continues to be one of the wealthiest nations of the world.


IEA’s TIMSS 2019 is the seventh assessment cycle of TIMSS, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. TIMSS 2019 was conducted at the fourth and eighth grades in 64 countries and 8 benchmarking systems. Inaugurated in 1995, TIMSS has been conducted every four years since, providing 24 years of trends in mathematics and science achievement.

About the IAE

The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) is an independent, international cooperative of national research institutions and governmental research agencies. It conducts large-scale comparative studies of educational achievement and other aspects of education.


TIMSS 2019 results:


The TIMSS 2019 mathematics assessment is based on comprehensive frameworks developed collaboratively with the participating countries. The TIMSS 2019 Mathematics Framework is organized around two dimensions: a content dimension specifying the content to be assessed and a cognitive dimension specifying the thinking processes to be assessed.

Grade 4 Results

Grade 8 Results

TIMSS 2019 continues the long history of international assessments in mathematics and science conducted by IEA—the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. An independent international cooperative of national research institutions and government agencies, IEA pioneered international comparative assessments of educational achievement in the 1960s to gain a deeper understanding of the effects of policies across countries’ different systems of education. IEA has been conducting international assessments of mathematics and science and collecting data about the factors associated with achievement in countries around the world for more than 50 years.

TIMSS at the fourth grade is complemented by IEA’s PIRLS—the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study—conducted every five years since 2001.    

TIMSS 2019 results:

The TIMSS assessments of student achievement are updated with each cycle in collaboration with the participating countries, who review the frameworks describing the mathematics and science content to be assessed and participate in item development. TIMSS also provides important policy relevant data about students’ contexts for learning mathematics and science based on questionnaires completed by students and their parents or caregivers, teachers, and school principals. Taken together, TIMSS provides comparative data about countries’ student achievement over time and in relation to key home, school, and classroom variables.

For complete assessment of the TIMSS 2019 results: