Singapore Math Strategy

Topics: Math  Problem Solving  Word Problems  Model Drawing  Singapore Math  Bar Modeling  Elementary  

Grade Level: K-6

Context: In Classroom,  Content delivery.  

Overview: This lesson is taught at the beginning of a unit on solving word problems using Singapore Math Strategy (bar modeling). It prepares them for a later activity using manipulatives.

Learning Objectives: Students will be able to draw accurate unit bars to represent values. The units will be correctly labeled and show appropriate use of the question mark and curly bracket(s) where needed.


1. Students are introduced to the Singapore Math Strategy (model drawing). The teacher shows a word problem on her SMARTBoard. The teacher demonstrates the problem solving technique using an easy addition problem with small numbers. Students are introduced to the step-by-step procedure for solving a word problem:

1) read the question. 2) identify who and what the problem is about. 3) draw the unit bar(s) to represent the variables. 4) chunk the problem and adjust the unit bar(s). 5) correctly compute and solve the problem. 6) write the answer in their sentence, and make sure the answer makes sense.

Teacher then covers (uses the shade screen in the SMARTBoard) the problem solving technique (bar modeling), leaving the rules visible AND the question visible BECAUSE once the students begin drawing their response, the directions disappear from the survey dashboard.

2. InkSurvey Question: use bar modeling to solve this word problem. (The word problem the teacher projected is the same word problem students will answer in InkSurvey).

3. Teacher summarizes the results of the students' InkSurvey question.

4. Teacher projects a 2nd word problem, same structure, different numbers.

5. Teacher emphasizes the importance of representing variables with unit bars, labeling them, and then adjusting them after rereading the problem. She continues to demonstrate the use of the question mark and curly bracket(s).

6. Repeat the same InkSurvey Question: use bar modeling to solve this word problem.(The word problem the teacher projected the 2nd time is the same word problem students will answer in InkSurvey).

7. Teacher will then use the "sort" feature to select a sampling of student responses for discussion and display. Teacher will emphasize neatness, accuracy and correct computation.


Students will use unit cubes (manipulatives) to build the bar models they drew for the math problem in step 6.

What student misconceptions were revealed by the formative assessment and how did you address them?

On the first attempt, almost all students were able to create an accurate bar model with their question mark and curly brackets in the correct position. But, many solved the problem by placing their computation above the model (sloppy scratch). Some also failed to erase excessive ink/pencil marks. The procedure for bar modeling is to place computation work underneath or to the right of the model. By emphasizing my expectations for the position of their computation my modeling a problem on my SMARTBoard, I was able to gather graphical answers from students that showed a consistent layout, which helped me to assess student work more quickly.

After receiving the InkSurvey responses from your students, what insights did you gain into their thinking?

The link below will take you to a sampling of student responses on a first attempt. Notice that the content looks similar, with different parts scattered. It was important to have students present their content in an organized manner, facilitating the review process. Some students might see the InkSurvey page as a sheet of paper, using it like scratch paper to do their computation, forgetting to clean up their page before submitting their answers.

Refections on how this has or has not changed practice? How has this changed your thinking about teaching?

This lesson demonstrated that elementary students can use InkSurvey to complement the model drawing required with the Singapore Math Strategy. Acceptable results were attained with standard desktop computers, using mice for input. It was not necessary to include a written component, though it could be included in the typed response. It was sufficient to see students draw the bar models with labels, curly bracket (s) and a question mark. Problem set up was more important than problem solution.