Choosing the right math curriculum when homeschooling your children is never easy. You want to find something that will help them learn the skills they need, encourage critical thinking, and be manageable to implement.
As a homeschool parent myself, I understand your frustrations. Two math programs that are popular with the homeschool community are Singapore and Saxon Math.
Deciding between Saxon Math vs Singapore Math, however, can still be quite difficult. If you’ve heard a little about both of these math programs, but aren’t sure which one is the best fit for you and your children, you’ve come to the right place.
Singapore’s curriculum places a greater emphasis on critical thinking and the use of visuals to help students understand concepts, while Saxon’s approach works to break larger concepts into smaller chunks that are easier for students to understand.
Singapore math: the famed Singapore approach to teaching the subject, using visual means such as objects, pictures and diagrams to teach concepts.
also Singapore math: pic.twitter.com/9m5IPw1MBc
— 🍍 __ 🙀 (@sharanvkaur) December 16, 2021
If you’d like to dive deeper into these two programs to decide which is right for you, keep reading. I’ve done extensive research on both programs and have lot of information to share with you about:
- how each program is designed;
- their similarities;
- their key differences.
What Are Saxon Math and Singapore Math?
Before we can decide whether Saxon or Singapore Math is better, I want to take a few minutes to share a brief overview of the history of each program. Understanding how each program got its start can help you understand the rationale behind its specific design and approach.
Let’s start with Saxon Math. Saxon was designed in 1981 by John Saxon. Saxon was a math teacher at an Oklahoma junior college.
After realizing that many of his students had gaps in their understanding of essential math concepts, Saxon began to make worksheets to help his students improve their understanding. These worksheets were based on the strategies and methods that Saxon himself preferred and found success with.
After sharing his strategies and methods with the students in his class, Saxon started creating the Saxon Math program to share his approach with students and teachers across the country.
While initially, many educators were critical of Saxon’s curriculum, many students who have followed his program have made impressive gains. Today, there are still some that are more hesitant to recommend Saxon, but at the same time, there are many parents and educators that rave about the curriculum.
Item #5 is the HomeSchool anchor to curriculum – Math and Language Arts. Saxon Math, is IMO, the BEST. Language Arts are absolute musts for your student(s) future. Want your child in College? With scholarship?
Yes, these ensure & are keys to Critical Thinking skills & excellence!
— Dr. Fred DiUlus: Online Education Pioneer (@BestWorstOnline) June 12, 2021
Next, let’s take a look at how Singapore Math got its start. The nation of Singapore was founded in 1965. For the first 15 or so years of its existence, the country imported textbooks and teaching materials from other countries.
However, in 1982, the Singapore’s Ministry of Education developed its own methods for teaching math to its students. They noticed that their students weren’t doing well in international rankings and wanted to take steps to change this face.
The math curriculum developed by the Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore placed a large emphasis on the use of critical thinking skills and problem-solving, rather than simply learning computation strategies.
This new curriculum clearly worked. Singapore’s students rose quickly in international rankings, topping students from other countries across the globe.
After the success students in Singapore saw using the new curriculum, the Singapore Math company began sharing the program with schools and teachers in the United States in 1998.
Saxon Math vs Singapore Math
Now that you understand a little more about how and when Saxon and Singapore curriculums were developed, let’s explore to learn more about the key differences between these two programs. Below, I’ve highlighted some Saxon Math vs Singapore Math details that will help you make the decision about which program you’ll want to use.
The first difference to cover is between the grade levels that each program covers. Saxon offers materials for all students between kindergarten and 12th grade.
On the other hand, Singapore offers materials for students in pre-Kindergarten through 8th grade.
As you can see, there is no high school curriculum offered by Singapore, so it won’t be an option if your children are high school-aged. Additionally, if your children will be in high school within a few years, you’ll need to be prepared to find a different curriculum for them when the time comes.
If you have children who are not yet kindergarten age, but you want to start working with them, you may be interested in the Singapore curriculum. Since their materials and programs start for students in pre-K, you can get your little ones learning from a younger age and help them get prepared for the kindergarten curriculum.
Approach to Math Education
The way math is taught in the Singapore and Saxon curriculum is quite different. Learning more about each of their approaches to teaching children may be the biggest influence on which curriculum is right for your students.
A spiral approach to learning is used by Saxon. Students learn about concepts in a rotation, with lots of time to review past learning and build on it.
This means that, for example, one unit of study may focus on geometry for a few weeks, then students may move on to something else, and return to review geometry and build on their previous learning.
The benefit of this type of learning is that the material can be prevented in smaller chunks, helping students master each part before they move on to the next. However, there are a few concerns with this approach as well, including that some students may have more trouble bouncing back and forth between concepts. Additionally, some students who prefer to learn at a quicker pace may become bored with the repetition.
Singapore uses a mastery approach, rather than a spiral approach, to help students learn essential skills. With the Singapore curriculum, you’ll spend an extensive about of time on each concept to help students become proficient ‘masters’ before they enter a new unit.
Proponents of such a mastery approach say that it is better for letting kids learn at their own pace and can be helpful in building a stronger foundation for learning. However, a downside of this approach is that it doesn’t leave time to review past learning, which is very helpful for some students.
The strategies and methods for instruction are also different between the two programs. With Saxon, there is a greater emphasis placed on practicing problems, drills, and developing computation fluency and automaticity with math facts.
Singapore, on the other hand, uses the CPA process. CPA stands for Concrete, Pictorial, and Abstract.
This process focuses on helping students learn first by doing (concrete) and then moves them on to the pictorial stage where they make their own drawings and visuals to show their learning. Last, during the abstract stage, students move to use symbols and equations to demonstrate their knowledge.
There is a large emphasis on critical thinking and problem-solving skills integrated into the Singapore curriculum. Unlike Saxon that strives for automaticity with basic facts, Singapore places a greater emphasis on developing mental math strategies that students can apply to different types of problems.
Rigor and Alignment with Common Core
The Common Core Standards were implemented in 2010, years after both the Saxon and Singapore curriculums were created. If finding a curriculum that is aligned with Common Core is important to you, you may still be able to find what you’re looking for with either Singapore or Saxon.
The newer editions for the intermediate and upper levels of Saxon pretty closely correlate with the Common Core standards. As for Singapore, you can choose to purchase their Common Core or Dimensions edition, which are designed around the Common Core standards.
As a homeschool parent, however, you have more flexibility than public school educators and don’t have to fully follow the Common Core curriculum. If you’d prefer, you can also choose one of the other editions of either Singapore or Saxon that are not aligned with the state standards.
If finding a rigorous math curriculum is your goal, both Saxon and Singapore are excellent options to consider. They’ll likely offer more challenge, rigor, and engagement than what is being offered at local public schools.
However, the more rigorous of the two is probably the Singapore curriculum. With its approach to helping students enhance their critical thinking skills, the lessons will require more problem-solving and logical reasoning.
For the most part, the lessons and concepts introduced in Saxon line up with grade-level objectives set by states. Singapore, on the other hand, tends to introduce many concepts a little earlier than they would be in public schools.
If you choose to use Singapore, you can also enrich the instruction you provide by purchasing some of their challenge and puzzle books.
Ease of Use
If you’re looking for a program that is more scripted and really easy to get started with, you’ll probably be better off going with Saxon. The earlier grade level lessons are much more straightforward and easy to follow for parents, which can make it easier to teach your children.
Additionally, the Saxon curriculum is also designed to help students grow to become independent learners. As your children get older, much of their learning will be done through self-study, leaving less for you to need to worry about.
The Singapore curriculum, on the other hand, is quite different. You’ll need to be prepared for a bit of a learning curve as you get started with the program and its methods for instructing children and helping them learn.
Don’t let this be a reason to deter you from Singapore, because once many parents get started and used to the curriculum, they love it. However, if you’re looking for something more scripted or that your children will be able to complete with less parental support, then Singapore probably isn’t the best choice for you.
Materials Needed for Homeschooling
The materials you’ll need to homeschool your children in either Saxon or Singapore are pretty similar. For the most part, you’ll need to purchase the textbooks, student workbooks, and the teacher’s guide/solutions manual.
Regardless of which program you choose, you’ll have the option to purchase an entire kit or to purchase individual components. If you have just one child, purchasing the kit may be the most cost-effective solution. However, if you have multiple children, you can save money by reusing the textbook from your older children and just purchasing a new student workbook.
Singapore does offer a few digital lessons to supplement the textbook materials, but for the most part, neither of these programs require too much technology integration. If you like using technology with your students, you can find some materials and games offered by third-party groups.
The program cost for both Saxon and Singapore can vary based on the materials you purchase and whether you’re passing down textbooks from older siblings.
However, that being said, Saxon is typically a bit more expensive than Singapore. Purchase a full kit for a grade level from Saxon will run you between about $100 and $140, while you can expect to spend a little under $100 for a Singapore grade level kit.
The table below summarizes the information shared above:
Grade Levels: K-12
Alignment with Grade Level: Mostly aligned
Approach to Math Education: Introduces concepts more slowly by breaking them down into smaller pieces. Places a higher emphasis on review, memorization, drill, and computational fluency.
Rigor and Alignment with Common Core: More rigorous than many public school curriculums; some newer editions align more closely with Common Core standards.
Ease of Use: Easy to get started with; includes more scripted lessons, especially for younger students. The lessons are designed for more independent learning with less support from parents as students get older.
Program Cost: Can vary, but typically between $100 and $140 for a full grade-level kit.
Grade Levels: pre-K-8
Alignment with Grade Level: Mostly a grade level above
Approach to Math Education: Focuses on developing critical thinking and using problem-solving skills. Uses more manipulatives and visualizes aid to help students increase understanding.
Rigor and Alignment with Common Core: Rigorous program that focuses on enhancing students’ problem-solving skills and critical thinking; the Common Core and Dimensions editions align closely with the Common Core standards.
Ease of Use: Getting started and familiar with the program and teaching strategies may be a bit involved. Parents will need to allow time to learn the materials and methods before working with their children.
Program Cost: Can vary, but typically under $100 for a full grade-level kit.
Choosing the program you use for your child or children is really a personal choice. You can use the information shared above combined with what you know about how your child learns best to decide whether Saxon Math vs Singapore Math offers the best fit.
Use the guidelines below while thinking about your child and their learning style and preference to help make your decision a little easier:
- If you think your child will learn best when strategies and skills are repeated during instruction, Saxon may be the best choice.
- If you want to build on your child’s critical thinking and problem-solving skills, Singapore may be the right choice.
- If your child learns best when presented with more visuals and diagrams, they may do better with Singapore.
- If your child is more focused on finding the answers and seeing something complete, rather than on worrying about the reasoning, they may prefer Saxon.
- If your child is easily frustrated when things are repeated, Singapore may be a better fit for them.
- If you think your child will learn best when information is presented in smaller pieces at a slower pace, then you may want to opt for Saxon.
The statements and opinions below may also be helpful in deciding whether Saxon or Singapore is right for you:
- If you teach students in 9th, 10th, 11th, or 12th grade, you should choose Saxon.
- If you want to find a curriculum that is more scripted and easier to follow, try Saxon.
- If you prefer to have more flexibility and don’t want to follow a script, Singapore might be the better choice.
- If you want your child to be with solving math problems and automatically recall math facts, try Saxon.
- If you want your child to be able to articulate the why and reasoning behind a solution, look into Singapore math.
- If you like taking time to deeply explore math concepts, Singapore may be the right fit.
- If you like to go slower and build on previous instructions, you might prefer Saxon.
- If you are looking to enrich your child with more rigorous instruction and critical thinking, try Singapore.
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- How to teach Singapore math →
- Why Singapore’s kids are so good at maths →
The choice between Saxon Math vs Singapore Math is ultimately up to you. You’ll need to think about your child, their age and learning style, and your preferences for teaching and working with them.
So, which do you think is best for you and your child(ren)? Singapore or Saxon?