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Singapore Math Tips 2017: Levels 1 and 2

November 14th, 2017

{photo by Cheryl McCabe}

Our Singapore Math training is coming up on December 8th, and to help you gear up for all the practical instruction and hands-on learning you’ll receive at that event, as well as get a little background on each level, we are re-posting and revising a blog series offering a few tips for using Singapore Math at home. This week we are taking a look at levels 1 and 2.

The following was originally written by Lisa Ann Dillon, our Singapore Math Lead, and was updated by Jennifer Perneel, our Primary Lead teacher. Thank you, teachers!

Level 1

The Singapore Math program is founded on the principle that students must first build, then work with pictures before they learn the rules of math or algorithm.  We call this approach C – P – A.  This stands for Concrete, Pictorial, and Abstract. Only in keeping this in mind will the program make sense, and only in making use of all 3 stages will the program serve your student with all of its potential.

In Level 1, students will learn addition and subtraction math facts up to 20 through number bonds, games and algorithm practice.  Students will learn strategies such as “make 10” to complete mental math up to 100, and be able to explain how they achieved their answers. Place value up to the hundreds will be first explored through manipulatives then applied to many concepts throughout the year.

The following activities can be used in your daily lessons, to strengthen and build the foundation upon which your child’s entire mathematical future will be built! Keep it fun and light. Most of the time your child won’t even realize they are learning!

  • Get some fun manipulatives like plastic insects or sea creatures.  Using the double ten frames from last year, build the most difficult facts to memorize.  After building them in the frames, have your student write the number bonds.  Then write the equations.  Spend several days working to get both subtraction and addition facts memorized then move on to another.  

Click here for a blank ten frame

Click here for a blank double ten frame

  • Play games with cards or dominoes.  These are two excellent tools to help kids develop an imprint on the brain of the numbers from 1 – 9.  Some suggestions: Make 10 Go Fish or Make 10 Memory, War (put down two cards and add or subtract), etc.

“Make 10 Go Fish” – students make pairs equalling ten
{photo by Jennifer Perneel}

“Math Fact War”– pull two cards and total them up. Player with the greatest number wins that round! In this photo, we have a “war” going on!
{photo by Jennifer Perneel}
  • Throw a ball, or better yet a bean bag to your student.  Give a math fact as you do.  As the student throws back the object, the answer should be given.

  • Remember that students at this level should still be counting objects even as the math facts are becoming solid.  Have your student sort and count how many knives, forks and spoons as the dishwasher is emptied.  Or count how many red legos or beads are in a pile.  Ask which group has more, less, how many more, how many less, etc. You get the picture.

  • As understanding grows, begin estimating larger quantities and have students count objects to see how close the guess was.


Useful manipulative for Levels 1 and 2: plastic animals, dominoes, playing cards

Level 2

In Level 2 students begin using mental math to solve problems up to 1000 with and without renaming.  Students who have all math facts memorized to automaticity (without thinking about it) have an easy transition to this skill.  Students will also learn (and memorize) multiplication and division facts for 2, 3, 4, 5, and 10. Place value understanding will deepen, and will be weaved throughout the many concepts learned. Students will continue to work on their ability to verbalize steps taken to complete work.

Depending on the level of your child, any of the above suggestions can still be used as a “warm-up” for your home lessons. You could also include any of the following activities. Consider using them another time during the day and then the student might not even realize the math lesson is continuing!

  • Race to 100/1000. Use the Place Value Discs and a place value mat. Roll two dice and build the number. With each subsequent roll, add it to your collection, renaming and trading discs as needed. The first player to 100 (or 1000!) wins!

Click here for a printable Place Value Mat

Students playing “Race to 100”
{photo by Jennifer Perneel}
  • Another great game that focuses on place value and mental math and requires no prep is “What’s My Number?”  Ask your student questions such as “I have 13 ones and 3 tens. What’s my number?” This is a great game for car rides or waiting in line at the market!

  • Card Games – timeless oldies but goodies. “Make 10 Memory” and “Make 10 War” are very applicable at level 2 as well. Play “War” but add or subtract 2 (or even 3!) cards and use that as the final number to compare. Once you have begun multiplication, you can focus on one fact (3s, for example) and multiply each number by that fact. When your child is ready, you can pull two cards and multiply those to find the final number to compare.

“Make 10 Memory”-– students pull cards equalling ten. Here we use a deck of Uno cards, only keeping 20 on the “playing field.” When pairs are removed, cards from the pile on the side are added.
{photo by Jennifer Perneel}

Keep in mind that Level 2 is still a year for exploration.  The goal is that students will master math facts, have an understanding of place value, memorize multiplication facts for 2, 3, 4, 5, and 10, and also be exposed to other strands of measurement, time, money, fractions and geometry.  This should be a fun and exciting year for your student.  

{photo by Cheryl McCabe}

Math should not be overly stressful! If frustration encroaches – go back to the manipulatives. Your math teachers are always ready to provide support as needed. We are here to help!

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