Singapore Math emphasizes problem solving and positive attitudes towards Mathematics, while focussing on development of skills, concepts, process and meta cognition in students.
Singapore math focuses on fewer topics but covers them in greater detail. It teaches students mathematical concepts in a three-step learning process: concrete, pictorial, and abstract.
Ms. Berinderjeet Kaur who is a Professor of Mathematics Education at the National Institute of Education in Singapore has explained this very well with the analogy of building a house. Why do you need a house? You build a house in order to secure yourself. In the same way, we want our students to acquire a secure grasp of mathematics. If students are confident and capable problem-solvers that means their mathematics is secure. Singapore Mathematics puts problem-solving at the centre of the 'house' - the reason we are building a house.
Firm foundations are the base of anything we build. Mathematics concepts build one on top of another. One can only build concepts on top if the concepts at the bottom are securely in position. Hence, there is no rushing through the syllabus. This is the core of what has been called the mastery approach.
Next step in building a house, come the walls. These are the skills and processes. 'CPA', or "Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract" is a term that is central to the mathematics approach in Singapore. It is believed that good physical and pictorial models are vital to helping students understand abstract concepts.
Finally, any house needs a roof. Metacognition is the roof of Singapore Math. Through metacognition students learn to plan, monitor, evaluate and regulate their approach to learning and the way they think about a given problem or learning activity. Likewise, teachers of mathematics can use questioning to trigger metacognitive reflection in students.