Using the Singapore Bar Model

Team 2

Bar Model Defined

The Singapore Bar Method is a method that students use to visualize the relationships between the numbers given and the unknown numbers they are solving for in a problem. It is a three-step learning process: concrete, pictorial, and abstract.

Stages of the Bar Model

Benefits of the Bar Model:

  • It helps students focus on comprehension of the problem, rather than picking out numbers and performing a random operation with them.
  • It clearly lays out the structure of a problem.
  • It helps students visualize a problem so they can understand which operation they should perform.


  1. Concrete

ex: manipulatives or literal drawings

2. Pictorial

ex: dots that represent another object

3. Abstract

ex: bar models with corresponding numbers

Introduction to The Bar Model - Math Problem Solving Method
Singapore Math: Grade 3 - 2 Step Basic Word Problems

Noticing and Wondering

Noticing: Students discuss a word problem as a class or in groups and they discuss what they notice by listing the facts in the problem.

Wondering: The planning part of problem solving in which students talk about the strategies that they use to solve a particular problem. It can also be a restatement of the problem in the students own words.


Outcomes: Student ownership and deeper comprehension of the question, slowing down the thinking process and surfacing all of the information in the question. It reinforces problem solving as a process and understanding what it means to revise an answer and put it in a complete sentence.

Translating Word Problems to Bar Models

While reading word problems, many students struggle with the act of reading and comprehending the question. Without these foundational skills, they cannot succeed in solving the problem. Students must be able to pull out the essential information from a word problem and apply it to the bar model. While teaching word problems, teachers should stress key words and phrases that correlate with different operations.

The Bar Model approach is helpful while solving word problems for four main reasons:


  1. It allows students to visualize the problem that they are being asked to solve.
  2. It creates concrete pictures from abstract situations.
  3. It allows the students to learn through the acts of seeing and doing.
  4. It translates words into pictures which may be easier for some people to understand.

Practice the Bar Model at Home!

Click here for practice with addition and subtraction bar models!
Singapore Math - Addition and Subtraction Part 1
Singapore Math - Addition and Subtraction Part 2