What is Model Drawing?

Singapore Model Method was conceptualised in the 1980s by a group of educators and researchers amidst the backdrop of poor numeracy and mathematical thinking among primary and secondary school students. It then evolves into an innovation by this group of educators to come up with a strategy to get students to improve on solving word problems.

Model drawing fits in nicely in the Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract (CPA) concept where scaffolds are present at every juncture to provide students with the necessary support to achieve the learning outcomes.


Preschoolers start off learning numbers through objects. For example, preschoolers learn numbers, 1, 2, 3 etc through first counting the number of Lego bricks that they have with them physically before counting the number of shapes in the pictorial form in worksheets or books. This is an example of CPA at work.

This CPA approach is not just for young children or lower ability students. This is applicable for anyone who wants to learn a new mathematical concept or other subjects. Teachers and parents who want to teach their child a new concept may apply this CPA approach.

The general intent of model drawing is to provide scaffolds for students to learn:

1) Word Problems involving Arithmetic

2) Word Problems involving Fractions, Decimals, Percentages and Ratios

3) Algebraic Method

The above intentions are not exhaustive and do have a common theme: abstract concepts. Word problems involving numbers, fractions, decimals, percentages and or ratios can be very daunting for most students. Not only do students need to be familiar with the individual concepts well, students also have to comprehend the question and come up with a plan or strategy to solve these complicated word problems. This can also be compounded if a combination of fractions, percentages, ratio etc are weaved into one word problem!

Example of having Fractions embedded in already challenging word problems.

Taken from PSLE Prep Programme.

These complicated word problems can be solved by the algebraic method. However, the algebraic method is very abstract for our young students in elementary or primary school and certainly not easy for teenagers as well. But everyone would tell you that algebra is one big concept that you cannot avoid in the field of mathematics. Not only is algebra embedded in most fields of mathematics, but it also unlocks a whole lot of advanced mathematical concept.

Example of using Algebraic Method to solve simple word problem in Grade 6

Taken from PSLE Prep Programme.

All students will struggle with algebra with varying extents. Some acquire it easily but most stumble over it for extended period of time. This often demoralises students and cause them to lose interest in the subject and even lose confidence in themselves. I have seen many students struggle with algebra even before sitting for their O levels exam at the age of 16. So how can we expect our elementary / primary school students to master it?

Therefore, the Singapore Model Method fits in nicely in the Pictorial aspect where it provides students with simple diagrams to first aid their understanding about the word problem, making sense of the possible arithmetic involved instead of memorising steps and methods and then coming up with solutions which very well mimic the algebraic method unknowingly. This integration of model drawing and algebraic method sets up students in learning the algebra in the later part of elementary / primary school. Furthermore, the Singapore Model Method is often used to reinforce the basic fundamentals such as Arithmetic, Fractions, Percentages, Ratios etc to ensure a solid foundation to enable smooth transition to the algebraic method.

Example of model drawing in solving challenging word problems.

Taken from PSLE Prep Programme.

Hence, the Singapore Model Method not only acts as a precursor to the abstract algebraic method but also strengthens and reinforces basic arithmetic concepts. With that, I would also reiterate my stand that students need to be proficient in arithmetic, fractions, decimals, percentages and ratios before and while learning model drawing which was discussed in my previous post.

In the next article, I will be sharing on the various types of model drawing and how these model types can be used to simplify or picture lengthy and often complicated word problems.

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