Conceptual Math, Not Common Core Math

Conceptual math

Yesterday as my daughter was completing her mental math problems, she started to pretend to make a video about how to do the problems.  This isn’t something unusual for her, but I thought she was doing a good job explaining her mental process using the Singapore method.  So, here is a little video of my 7 year old “teaching” the Singapore method.

These mental math exercises are from the Singapore 2A Home Instructor’s Guide.  In the back of the Home Instructor’s Guide there is a list of mental math exercises which are designed to be done along with the regular book and workbook.  We typically work through them at a slower pace.  This video showed some of the beginning 2A mental math activities so these were mostly review from the 1B book.  Some days we do a complete row of mental math problems, like today.  And other days when the problems are more challenging, we manage about 5 problems.

These mental math activities are designed to develop strong conceptual math skills.  So instead of focusing on memorization of math facts, we focus on being able to manipulate numbers mentally.  These methods are often criticized as confusing or as Common Core, but they were around long before Common Core.

I had no difficulty with math in school, but I was never able to manipulate numbers mentally.  I always had to write things down to figure them out.  Teaching my kids the Singapore method also helped me.  Now I can figure out so much mentally and at a speed that is about the same as it would have taken me to write it down. So I guess you can teach an “old dog” new tricks.  With all the hub-bub about Common Core, I would hope that we would be open-minded to new ways to do things.  Different methods may work quite well for some kids.

I used the Singapore method with my older kids and it served them quite well.  We continued with Singapore through the 5B book.  At that point, my boys had no difficulty transitioning to Art of Problem Solving’s Pre-Algebra curriculum.



  1. My mom taught me how to do math computation in my head like this years ago. That’d be back in like the late 80’s. I don’t know why all the sudden people this this concept “belongs” to Common Core.

  2. This is actually exactly how my 2nd grade son class is being taught with common core. He has been doing multiplication/division since 1st grade by being taught by me. So.. I need to go to you tube to teach myself common core techniques as he progresses.

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