The CPA Approach Explained

Singapore Math is one of the key elements of S.A.M and one of the key learning principles behind Singapore math is the concrete pictorial abstract approach or CPA. Wouldn’t it be great if you know the core approach of the enrichment center you’re enrolling your child in? This quick read will shed some light on what the “amazing” CPA approach is about.

The CPA or the concrete-pictorial-abstract approach suggests that there are three steps necessary for students to develop complete understanding. This approach is a progression, which means, the concrete approach must be done first and then followed by pictorial and so on. Children find Math difficult because it is taught first in abstract here in the Philippines. Abstract means the child learns about the lines and shapes that make up digits and the lines that make up the operations (Example: 1 x 1) and a strict way of computing for it. The CPA approach digs deeper and gives the “reason” behind such problems thus creating critical thinking skills.

First, the CPA approach introduces concepts in a concrete and tangible way. This first step is “learning by doing” S.A.M provides actual items to model problems. Math problems are given life once the student handles the pizza (for example) that she is going to cut up for a fraction problem. Or if the exercise is about adding fruits in a basket, there will be fruits and a basket on the table, which will give meaning to the purpose of answering the math problem.

Second, the Pictorial Approach is the “Seeing” Stage. This is the transition for students to be ready for math problems on paper and worksheets. In this stage the children make a psychological association between the items they handled initially and the pictures, graphs or models. S.A.M worksheets are made to attract the student’s attention. For example, 3 red apples and 2 green apples will be added. The worksheets will have circles, properly colored to guide the child in solving the problem.

Finally, there is the Abstract stage where the child will be taught the same problem but this time using digits and operational symbols (for example, +, –, x, /). S.A.M trainers will guide the child through all these steps and will make sure that there is no spoon-feeding and no memorization. A skills S.A.M trainer will also go back and forth on these steps or approach to cross check if the child does understand the problem.

CPA is the best approach in teaching Math. Singapore will not be number one in world rankings according to TIMSS and PISA if it is not. If you like to learn more about CPA and how your child can benefit from it, contact your nearest S.A.M center now!