Is think! Mathematics CIE Syllabus ‘Easier’ Than Singapore’s?


This textbook comes in different editions. One of which is the CIE edition which is based on Cambridge International Examinations set of mathematics standards.


Many schools in the Philippines and Indonesia that have previously used Singapore textbooks and have since adopted CIE standard often raise this question.

CIE syllabus seems easier than Singapore’s.

Is it true?

For example, for whole numbers, Grade 3 CIE deals with numbers to 1000 while Singapore deals with numbers to 10000.

That means Singapore‘s syllabus include addition like 4719 + 1238 and subtraction like 4719 – 1238.  CIE Grade 3 requires only 719 + 238 and 719 – 238.

Some teachers think that this makes CIE “easier”.

They do not realise that in 4719 + 1238 the main work is 719 + 238. Once that is done, dealing with 4000 + 1000 is pedestrian. Many students can do that without explicit instruction.

Likewise, once 719 – 238 is done, extension to 4719 – 1238 requires only 4000 – 1000.

Likewise, in multiplication and division of larger numbers, x and x which is dealt with in Singapore’s Primary 3 syllabus, is only completed in CIE Grade 4. CIE Grade 3 requires only simpler cases of x . The rest is dealt with in Grade 4 CIE. Likewise with long division.

Again, many teachers find CIE curriculum too “easy” because of this.

These teachers may need to know that while size of numbers in whole number computations is ‘delayed’ by a year, CIE‘s edition of the textbook is more “advanced“ in other ways.

  • CIE Grade 3 includes rounding numbers, introduced in Primary 4 of Singapore’s syllabus.
  • CIE Grade 3 includes fraction of a set i.e. multiplication of fraction and a whole number. Singapore’s syllabus does this in Primary 4.
  • CIE Grade 3 includes the ideas of fraction as results of division of whole numbers. This is in Singapore’s Primary 5.
  • CIE Grade 3 includes topics not dealt with in Singapore’s primary curriculum. Motion geometry like reflection, rotation, translation, as well Venn and Carroll diagrams are examples of these.


Textbook 3A Chapter 1 Rounding Numbers




Textbook 3B Chapter Lesson 8


It is not at all true that CIE content is a year behind Singapore’s. In fact, by the end of primary school, CIE covers more topics than Singapore’s set of standards.

If that’s what teachers want to know.   Not that topics are the most important thing in mathematics programmes – there is a distinction between advanced topics and advanced thinking.

It’s pointless to include advanced topics if they are taught in procedural manner without requiring thinking and problem solving in the part of the students | think! Mathematics.




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