Math. Every kid’s favorite subject.

Or not.

Well I guess there are a few cases out there of children who have a math-loving disorder (that is, they actually love math), but my kids do not happen to be afflicted with any such thing.

Unfortunately. ;p

But hey for the record, I won’t say they hate it either—at least not most of it. Honestly I think some of that is because of the tactile, hands-on way math is introduced in the program we use, and the many games it relies on to teach the facts.

RightStart Math definitely has its draw-backs. It’s time-consuming, teacher-intensive, and sometimes introduces concepts at a faster pace than kids are ready for. But I haven’t sacked it for another curriculum yet and there’s a good reason for that.

This program really helps kids understand math. It encourages them to think outside the box and to see the patterns in numbers. It does not rely on rote memory or a list of steps. Instead, different ways of finding answers are explored so that a child is stretched to see the patterns and principles—not just memorize a list of rules.

We spent a year and a half in Level B (which is the equivalent of a 1^{st} grade program), and I plan to spread Level C out over a year and a half as well (2 levels in 3 years). Now while I mentioned that Level B would rate as a 1^{st} grade program, you should know that this is not a traditional math program, and it’s actually quite ambitious. At this level children are taught to add double-digit numbers in their head and four-digit numbers (or more) on paper. They make a cotter tens fractal, learn to use an abacus, construct shapes on a geoboard, and practice symmetry mirroring, as well as the traditional stuff like learning to count change and tell time.

I have not seen a program do a better job at teaching math concepts in a way that’s very relatable and easy to understand. Initially, everything is modeled with hands-on manipulatives, which the program relies on heavily. The core manipulative is the abacus. Students are taught numbers based on patterns of 5 and 10. Until a child is comfortable adding or subtracting without the abacus, it can be used as a sort of calculator to imprint a visual number picture in the child’s mind. I think I rushed Bri through this stage a little bit, which I regret. I think she needed more time with the abacus before we tried not using it, but I was trying to “keep up” with the program.

My mistake.

If you move at your own child’s pace you will get much more out of this program. I’ve had another mom, who was presenting this curriculum at a homeschool conference, tell me the same thing: she wished she hadn’t tried to stick to the program schedule but had moved at her own children’s pace. I decided it was worth spending a little extra time with the curriculum instead of trying to rush Bri through at the (sometimes) mad pace the program pushes. The curriculum itself is so good it’s worth taking extra time to get through (and sometimes skipping over a few things they may not be ready for to revisit them later) instead of switching to an “easier” program.

Bri finished Level B and started Level C shortly before Christmas. So here’s a sample lesson plan, and how we do it each day:

(This is Lesson 94 in the teacher’s manual from Level B, which has 106 lessons)

We start with a warm-up: today she counts by 10’s backwards from 100, counts by 2’s backwards from 20, finds “how much more” (how much more is needed with 65 to make 70? with 39 to make 41?, etc.), and mentally adds some numbers (24 + 24, 37 + 37, etc., but in this case I give them to her as 24 + 20, etc. because we are still trying to sort value places of numbers and sometimes when *mentally* adding them she confuses the ones and tens places).

Now we move into the actual lesson part. This is where new concepts and problems are introduced and/or new techniques practiced. Many times various manipulatives will be used in the presentation of the lesson (items needed are listed at the beginning of the lesson). Today we only use the abacus and a part-whole circle set to help us understand subtraction by finding the missing addend.

The first problem is given: “Little Bo Peep started out with 9 sheep in the morning on the day she lost her sheep. Five of her missing sheep arrived home at 2:00. How many more sheep must still come home?”

We write the 9 in the large circle and the 5 in one of the smaller circles: we know the “whole” amount of sheep Little Bo Peep started with was 9, and we know the “part” that she found was 5. We write the equation as a missing addend equation together: 5 + ? = 9. Now we have to discover what the other “part” is.

We can do this by starting with 5 on our abacus and adding on from 5 to reach 9. So she enters 5:

Now she enters the remaining beads needed to make 9, leaving a gap between them:

So now we can visually see that the parts 5 and 4 make 9. She writes this equation down both ways as we stress which is the whole and which are the parts: 5 + 4 = 9/9 – 5 = 4.

After several similar problems are given, a worksheet follows for practice (note that the worksheets are purchased separately from the teacher’s manual). With the book of worksheets, I tore the individual pages out and slid them into slipcovers and kept them in a three-ring binder so they could be written on with dry erase markers and erased. This way I was able to have her revisit and practice old worksheets and practice sheets as we went (and I won’t have to buy a new workbook for Marcus). If you feel you need some proof/documentation that the work was done, just snap a shot of each worksheet as it’s completed and save these photos in a file on your phone or computer.

The warm-up, lesson, and worksheet usually take us 20-30 minutes. If it looks like it’s going to take longer than that I split the lesson up and we do part of it the next day: keeping lesson time short and sweet—especially for young ones—is a good idea. We split our math time up into 2 to 3 short study periods each day. The warm-up/lesson/worksheet is our morning study; during afternoon quiet time I send Bri up to her room with an old worksheet or a simple facts practice sheet for her to complete on her own; then in the evening we will sometimes play a math game.

This math program relies heavily on games…and Bri loves them! We play addition war (we each lay 2 cards down and the person whose cards equate to the higher number takes all 4).

We play addition coin war (when adding two coins became too easy, we added 3 and 4 coins at a time, etc.).

When she was learning addition to 10 we played Go to the Dump. It’s played similar to Go Fish, except you are trying to match numbers that add up to 10 (if you have a 7 you ask for a 3, etc.). She would laugh hysterically whenever she was told to “Go to the Dump.” I guess that was funny, lol.

One of the games we’ve played the most is Corners: when you lay a card down on your turn, the two numbers that touch each other must add up to 5, 10, 15, or 20; you then add this to your total score. Throughout the game as the score is kept Bri has to mentally add the numbers in her head. We usually play to 100 points.

As for Marcus, instead of buying Level A for kindergarten I’m using Level B—and just introducing him to the first few lessons which deal with learning numbers and addition facts to ten (the first part of Level B is simply a review of what was taught in Level A). He’s five. So we keep it short and simple—probably 10-15 minutes/day.

So there’s a glimpse into our math curriculum. What program are *you* using? What have you found that works for* your *family?