Singapore Maths has become extremely popular in schools across the UK because of the impressive success rate of students in Asia. You can incorporate this method into any lesson using the Thinking Blocks apps.
The app is great for helping children to understand different mathematical concepts – especially as the questions are all word problems. The activities could be used as starter or extension activities or even as a whole lesson, they’re that good.
How Does The Thinking Blocks App Work?
“Model and Solve Word Problems“
This is the Thinking Blocks motto and it is exactly what the apps do. They give children maths questions in the form of word problems and help them solve them using the bar model.
The app works by helping children to break more complex mathematical problems down into smaller and more manageable steps. This is a key component of Singapore Maths as children don’t feel overwhelmed by a problem.
As mentioned, children are encouraged to make extensive use of the bar method when solving problems.
It’s a very practical app as children are asked to drag and drop the correct information into place. However, the app also has a lot of instructions and is constantly giving feedback to help the children recognise their errors. This allows them to work independently whilst solving the word problems.
I think the best way to showcase the app is to include a demonstration of the app in progress (with an explanation every step of the way).
For my tutorial, I’ve chosen to look at Fractions – because everybody hates teaching it!
Please click on a picture to enlarge it so you can see the detail.
When you select which app to use, you are given a selection of subcategories to choose from (more on that later).
Step 2: Introduce the Question and Set the Bar
As you can see, the children are given the question in the top box. I love that they’re given a basic explanation of what they have to do underneath (the green text). I think this will help so many children who struggle to identify the task when given word problems.
Because the question has divided the children into 3rds, I’ve been given 3 blocks to place onto the bar. I then have to drag and drop a label into the correct section. I can see in the question that 2/3 of the children are boys, so I can clearly see I need to place the label representing the boys in the space under 2 blocks.
If I make an error, the app will tell me so and give me help (in the feedback box) so I can self-correct.
Step 3: Place the Values
The next step is a small step but is an important step. By now, the children have been able to split the total into 3 segments and have identified that 2/3 are boys and 1/3 are girls.
Now, they have to place the numerical value in the correct place. As I know there are 4 girls, I place the 4 into the box represented by the girls and the ? into the box represented by the boys.
This is quite a basic example, but as the questions progress, children will have to deal with more values and identify where they should go.
Step 4: Solve
This is made a lot simpler by the fact that they can literally see that 1/3 of the total is worth 4 children. Now all they have to do is either multiply 4 by 2 or simply write down 4+4 and they can find the answer quite easily. To help them work this out, they can use the pen function to write all over the screen or the calculator if they’re really stuck.
Once they’ve typed their answer in, they’ll either be congratulated and move onto the next question or told to try again.
What Mathematical Concepts are Covered by the App
The Thinking Blocks Singapore Maths apps cover a wide range of different mathematical concepts. Each of the different categories has dozens of questions so it’s very unlikely children will end up doing the same question more than once.
Within the range of Thinking Blocks apps, there are four different main apps; Addition and Subtraction, Multiplication and Division, Fractions Ratio and Proportion. Each app has several categories for children to work through, a break down of each category is given below:
Addition and Subtraction
- Part/Whole Model – 2 Steps
- Part/Whole Model – 3 Steps
- Change Model – 2 Steps
- Comparison – 1 Step Problem
- Comparison – 2 Step Problem
- Compare 3 Quantities
You can differentiate this app by using numbers between 1-50 or numbers between 1-300.
Multiplication and Division
- Find the Missing Product
- Find the Missing Divisor or Quotient
- Compare Quantities – 1 Step problem
- Compare Quantities – 2 Step problem
- More than 1 Operation
- Compare 3 Quantities
- Find the Fraction of a Number
- Find the Total/Part
- Add Fractions
- Add Fractions with Unlike Denominators
- Multiply and Divide Fractions
- Fractions with Remainders
Ratio and Proportion
- Find the Missing Quantity
- Find the Total/Difference
- Use the Total/Difference to find a Quantity
- Work with Partial/Whole Numbers
- Compare 3 Quantities
- Apply to Challenging Problems
As I’ve mentioned, within each category there are dozens and dozens of questions so your children could spend a whole lesson on one topic without repeating work.
Thinking Blocks Junior
I want to note that you can also access Thinking Blocks online (click here) which means you don’t even need an iPad.
In fact, a lot of the screenshots came from the website because I left my iPad at work and really wanted to upload this page today!
However, when using the website, you can also access Thinking Blocks Junior. This is a version of the apps which is meant to be used by younger children and, as such, uses smaller numbers.
The younger children can only answer questions around addition and subtraction and only have the option to use numbers as big as 20 or 10. Yet I still think it’s a fantastic idea to use Thinking Blocks Junior in the classroom with younger children. Not only does it help them understand maths but it also prepares them for a method they’ll like encounter as they progress through school.
The Thinking Blocks Singapore Maths app has a handy feature which allows you to view the progress the children are making.
If you click onto “view progress” you can see how many (up to 5 recorded) questions the children have completed within each category. You can also print off a certificate showing how much progress a child has made which is great for Pupil Progress meetings.
It’s also easy to reset all progress when giving the iPad or apps to a new student as all you need to do is click “reset” and start anew.
How Much Does It Cost?
Unbelievably, the Thinking Blocks Singapore Maths apps are completely free. This is an incredible opportunity to get some fantastic equipment into your maths lesson for absolutely nothing.
There’s really no argument against getting this brilliant use of technology in school.
The Thinking Blocks Singapore Maths apps are a fantastic way of introducing this type of teaching into your classroom. There’s such a large amount of questions and instructions that the children can develop their knowledge independently.
I also think that the amount of topics covered by the apps is fantastic and it’s nice to see an app address word problems.
All in all, I think this type of app will help children to feel more confident when approaching tricky maths questions (particularly word problems) because they’ll master an approach which simplifies everything for them.