Detailed Dimensions Math review. Learn the differences between Singapore Math’s newest curriculum and their tried-and true Primary Mathematics program so you can choose the best homeschool math program for your family.
Over the years, Singapore Math has created several different editions of the Primary Mathematics books used so successfully in Singaporean schools in the late ’90’s.
First, there was the U.S. edition, an Americanized version of the original Singaporean curriculum. This became the go-to version of Singapore Math for many homeschool families. If your friend says she uses “Singapore math,” it’s probably this book.
Next, there was the Standards edition. It was originally published to meet California’s state standards, but many (non-Californian) parents chose it for the full-color textbooks and well-written lesson plans.
Then, there was the Common Core edition, written mainly for schools that needed to comply with the national frameworks.
Now, they’ve added yet another option: Dimensions Math, a comprehensive math curriculum for children from preschool to 8th grade.
That’s 4 different “Singapore Math” textbook series, and it doesn’t even count spin-offs like Math in Focus or the Frank Schaeffer supplementary workbooks. It’s no wonder that many parents feel overwhelmed by all the choices!
What All the Books Have In Common
The good news is that all versions of Singapore Math provide excellent instruction, so you don’t have to stress about choosing the “right” version. (Well, except perhaps Dimensions PreK and Kindergarten–see below for more.) Each program has its own distinctive features, but all of them follow the same basic approach:
- lessons that follow the concrete –> pictorial -> abstract sequence to develop conceptual understanding
- written practice to build fluency with arithmetic
- mental math to build deep number sense
- many challenging word problems that require kids to go beyond superficial understanding and use bar diagrams as a tool for solving
(If you’re brand-new to Singapore-style math and are wondering what the heck “concrete–> pictorial –> abstract” means or what “bar diagrams” are, click on over to my review of Primary Mathematics. It’ll familiarize you with the overall Singapore Math approach before you come back and read this article: Singapore Math Review: World-Class Math Education, Right at Your Kitchen Table)
No matter which version you choose, you’ll still reap all these benefits for your child. But, knowing the features of each will help you pick the one that best fits your teaching style and fits your child’s learning style.
In this Dimensions Math Review, I’ll introduce you the the components of the program and describe what makes Dimensions distinctive, as well as the bottom line on how to tell whether Dimensions is right for you and your family.
Dimensions Math Review
Dimensions Math is a comprehensive math curriculum for children from PreK through 8th grade. The series is divided into elementary (PreK through 5th grade) and middle school (6th through 8th grade). Written by American educators with many years of experience teaching Singapore-style math, the books aim to provide Singapore Math in a format that’s more familiar and accessible to American parents and teachers. The middle school program has already been out for quite a while, while the elementary program was brand-new in the fall of 2018.
Each year of Dimensions is divided into 2 semesters. For each semester, you’ll need the Teacher’s Guide, Textbook, and Workbook. For example, here are the books for the first semester of Dimensions Math first grade. (You’ll also need to gather some manipulatives and print off the blackline masters.)
As of this writing, nearly all levels are available. Only 5B (the second semester of fifth grade) is still in production, and it is scheduled for release in June 2020.
Once the bulk of the program is finished, the authors plan to write Home Instructor’s Guides for homeschool parents. Until then, parents will need to use the classroom-oriented Teacher’s Guides.
What’s Different from Primary Mathematics?
Many aspects of Dimensions Math are very similar to Primary Mathematics. Both follow roughly the same scope and sequence, and both take the same overall approach to teaching math. But you’ll find several features that are quite different.
Consistent Lesson Format
Beginning in 1st grade, most Dimensions lessons follow a consistent 5-step format: Think, Learn, Do, Activities, Workbook.
- Think: During this phase of the lesson, you and your child work through a real-life problem with hands-on materials. This problem introduces the type of thinking that the child will do throughout the lesson.
- Learn: In this stage, you teach your child the new concept, either with manipulatives or by referring to pictures in the book.
- Do: Next, your child completes exercises from the textbook to practice the new concept. You’ll usually need to actively guide your children during this part of the lesson.
- Activities: The Teacher’s Guide provides several optional activities you can use to further reinforce the lesson.
- Workbook: Finally, the child practices the new concept independently in the workbook.
Here’s a sample of a subtraction lesson from 1st grade to give you a sense of the lesson format and layout:
(In PreK and Kindergarten, the lesson format is slightly different but still follows the same general pattern.)
This consistent lesson format helps both parents and children know what to expect during the daily math lesson. The Teacher’s Guide also provides very clear guidance about how to incorporate the textbook. In general, there’s more hand-holding for parents so that you know exactly what to do in each lesson.
However, one potential downside to this is that Dimensions’ lessons are longer and more detailed than the lessons in Primary Mathematics. If you prefer to keep your math lessons short and sweet, you may find the amount of parent teaching time a bit long, even if you skip all of the optional Activities.
To give you a sense of the difference between the two programs’ level of details, here’s the same lesson as above but in the U.S. version’s Home Instructor’s Guide. The activities are similar, but the overall lesson is much shorter and simpler, with little guidance about what to emphasize as you discuss the textbook.
Full -Color, Well-Organized Teacher’s Guide
As you can see in the photos above, Dimensions’ Teacher’s Guide has a much more pleasant and clear layout. Full-color pages, easy-to-read headings and bullets, plus inset photos of the textbook make the Dimensions Teacher’s Guides much easier to scan and comprehend than the Primary Mathematics’ Home Instructor’s Guides.
Colorful Textbooks in the Upper Grades
Once all levels are finished, Dimensions Math will include full-color textbooks all the way through fifth grade. (Primary Mathematics U.S. edition offers only 2-color textbooks after 2nd grade, although the Standards edition textbooks are color for all grades.) Here’s a sample of the first grade textbook.
Many Optional Activities
Dimensions includes at least one optional Activity in each lesson (and sometimes more). These Activities are usually number games or gross-motor math activities. They provide extra practice and reinforcement in a fun or active way. Many will work just fine for a parent working with one child, but some require a large group of children. You’ll have to modify these to make them work in a homeschool setting.
Here’s a sample activity from the 1st grade subtraction unit, a simple subtraction practice game that can be played with 2 players.
If you don’t like having to wade through a lot of choices, you may find all these options overwhelming. This is especially true in Kindergarten and PreK, where there are usually at least 5 different activity options in every lesson. At these younger levels, more activities also means more prep and more materials to gather. Some chapters aren’t bad…
….but other chapters are very elaborate. Yikes!
A Warning About Dimensions Kindergarten and PreK
Dimensions’ Kindergarten and PreK programs are quite overwhelming. 5 different activity options per lesson is a lot to sort through! With these two levels, I worry that parents will be so frazzled by all the activity options that they’ll only use the textbook and workbook. For little ones, hands-on activities are the most important part of learning math–not the written work! If you think you might be tempted to skip the hands-on activities, you should either choose a different kindergarten program, or vow that you’ll do at least one hands-on activity each day before doing any book work.
That said, if you love prepping cute, hands-on activities and don’t mind spending a lot of time on math, you may have a blast using Dimensions Kindergarten and PreK. For a family with just one young child and not many other obligations, Dimensions Math PreK and Kindergarten could be a a lot of fun.
Other Options for Kindergarten and Preschool Homeschool Math
However, if you think you’d be better off with a more streamlined kindergarten program, you have a lot of options. My Preschool Math at Home and Kindergarten Math with Confidence lead well into the Dimensions first grade program, or you can consider at the other kindergarten options Singapore Math offers. (Scroll down in my review of the Primary Math series to read more about these options.)
Are there supplementary books available for Dimensions Math?
Singapore Math offers a lot of options for supplementing their programs. At this point, only the Intensive Practice books are correlated with Dimensions. You can use these books for kids who need more challenge.
What does the Dimensions Math Middle School program include?
By the time your child finishes Dimensions 8, she’ll have covered pre-algebra, algebra, and an introduction to geometry. She’ll be ready to go into a full high school geometry course.
Can I use Dimensions Math Middle School books if I use U.S. or Standards edition for elementary school?
Yes. If you use Standards edition for elementary, Singapore recommends having your child finish Standards Grade 5 and then transition to Dimensions 6. If you use the U.S. edition for elementary, have your child finish U.S. edition Grade 6 and then move into Dimensions 7.
Can I switch to Dimensions Math from a non-Singapore program?
Yes, but your child should take a placement test first. All of the Singapore Math programs follow a faster scope and sequence than most American math programs. (For example, most American programs teach the multiplication and division facts in third grade and long division in fourth. All the Singapore programs teach the multiplication and division facts through the 5s in second grade and teach long division in third grade.)
If your child has been using an American math program, he’ll likely place at a slightly lower grade level in all versions of Singapore Math. Don’t be alarmed by this–it’s much better to make sure your child has a solid foundation than to rush him through. Plus, if he continues through Dimensions 8, he’ll already be ready for a high school geometry course.
Dimensions is roughly the same price as the rest of the Singapore programs: about $100 per year for the textbooks, workbooks, and teachers guides. You’ll also need to add a few manipulatives.
The Bottom Line on Dimensions Math
Dimensions Math May Be Perfect for You If…
You’re a little nervous about teaching Singapore-style math and would like very detailed directions.
If you’re new to Singapore Math and your child is in 2nd grade or younger, Dimensions Math is a great choice. It provides more guidance and explanations than the other versions, and the clear and consistent layout will make daily teaching easier.
You’ve used the U.S. or Standards editions in the past, but you think you’d like Dimensions better.
If you think you’d like Dimensions better, go for it! It’s totally fine to switch curricula, especially between programs that are so similar. If your child has used the U.S. or Standards edition, he or she shouldn’t have any problems transitioning to Dimensions. All three versions cover the same material within these grade levels, so your child will be well-prepared for the next grade level no matter which edition you use. Just make sure you’ve finished a full grade level in one edition before transitioning to a different version, as some of the topics have been rearranged within each grade.
Don’t Choose Dimensions Math If…
You want to keep your hands-on teaching time to a minimum.
If you have a large family or lots of little ones trying to steal the linking cubes, the parent-involved part of the Dimensions’ lessons may be too long for you. If you often find yourself pressed for time when teaching math, the U.S. or Standards version is probably a better bet for your family.
You don’t want to have to pick and choose from lots of lesson options.
The Dimensions’ Teacher’s Guide provides many more activities than most families will need. (Remember, it’s designed for a classroom teacher who needs to manage a large class and teach kids at a variety of levels.) If it stresses you out to have to pick and choose what to do, or if you don’t like having to cut activities, Dimensions is probably not a good choice for you. Go with Standards or U.S. edition instead so that the lessons don’t provide so many options to sort through.
You’re already using the U.S. or Standards edition, and you’re not excited about switching to Dimensions.
Just because Dimensions is the newest program in the Singapore line-up doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for every family. Unless you’re super-excited about using it, it’s fine to keep using the U.S. or Standards edition. Both are still excellent programs. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
And if Dimensions Math isn’t what you’re looking for, don’t worry! There are many excellent homeschool math programs out there. Check out my curriculum page for reviews of my other favorite programs to help you find one that’s a good fit for your family.
Thanks to the kind folks at Singapore Math who provided me with free review copies and graciously answered my many questions! This is my honest opinion of the program; other than free review copies, I was not paid or compensated in any way for the review.
Updated May 2020. Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. If you buy an item through an affiliate link, I may receive a commission, at no additional cost to you. Please note that comments are closed on this post. If you have a question, you can contact me here.