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.

To learn more about Singapore’s global ranking in mathematics, click here.


Boston Massachusetts. (11/29/2016) — Singapore, Hong Kong SAR, Korea, Chinese Taipei, and Japan continue outperforming all participating countries in mathematics at the fourth and eighth grades, maintaining a 20 year edge according to results released today from TIMSS, the longest running, large scale international assessment of mathematics and science education in the world.

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 2015 results:

In 2015, IEA and its TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center at Boston College conducted TIMSS 2015 at fourth and eighth grades and TIMSS Advanced 2015 for students in the final year of secondary school enrolled in special advanced mathematics and physics programs or tracks. Both TIMSS 2015 and TIMSS Advanced 2015 provide 20-year trend measures for countries that participated in the first TIMSS assessments in 1995.

Grade 4 Results

Grade 8 Results

TIMSS 2015 and TIMSS Advanced 2015 continue the long history of international assessments in mathematics and science conducted by IEA – the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. IEA is an independent international cooperative of national research institutions and government agencies that has been conducting studies of cross-national achievement since 1959. 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’s TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center is located in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College and has been responsible for directing TIMSS and TIMSS Advanced since 1995.

TIMSS 2015

TIMSS is an international assessment of mathematics and science at the fourth and eighth grades that has been conducted every four years since 1995. TIMSS 2015 is the sixth assessment in the TIMSS series monitoring 20 years of trends in educational achievement, together with comprehensive data on students’ contexts for learning mathematics and science.

In 2015, 57 countries and 7 benchmarking entities (regional jurisdictions of countries such as states or provinces) participated in TIMSS. In total, more than 580,000 students participated in TIMSS 2015.

For complete assessment of the TIMSS 2015 results:


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