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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Giving Your Kids The Right Start With Math

This week's topic on for the Virtual Curriculum Fair is Discovering Patterns: Mathematics, Logic, and Science. Your co-hosts for this week are Susan at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds and Laura at Day by Day in Our World. For this week, I thought I'd share what works for us for math. When it came time to choose a "real" math curriculum, I went to our state's homeschool convention with that purpose specifically in mind.  In a vendor hall as large as 3 football fields, there were choices galore, but if you've been homeschooling for any amount of time, I'm sure you are familiar with most of the main ones.  Saxon, Math-U-See, and Horizons are "pillars" in the math world to be sure.  And comprehensive curriculums like BJU, Alpha Omega, and Rod and Staff all have a math component available as well.  The problem was that most of what was on the market just wasn't going to work for us.

While I didn't know my oldest child's full diagnosis at that point, I knew enough about his learning style to know most of the typical math curriculums were not going to work for him.  He had no "active memory" which plagued him in learning to read, and also prevented him from making progress in math.  He needed a math curriculum that didn't rely on memorization.  One that had manipulatives, but not confusing, complicated systems that would bog him down.  One that made math as easy for me to teach as "Reading Made Easy" made reading.  And that's how we found RightStart.

I'm a huge believer in RightStart's methods, and I've even spent a few years working for them in their booth at FPEA, but I'm not an affililate, so everything you read here is a completely unsolicited testimonial.  I am writing about it because it really, truly works for us, and has worked for us, and I believe in it.  And RightStart is a bit of an underdog in the big world of math curriculums, so I thought I'd tell you a little about it.

RightStart is an abacus based math program.  The emphasis is on understanding, NOT memorization.  The abacus has 10 beads on a line, and changes color after 5 beads.   It has 100 beads total, and the color patterns swap at 50, so it's every easy to see quantities visually, which discourages counting.  They are 2 sided, so you can do math dealing with sums up to 100 on the first side, and on the other side there are columns for ones, tens, hundreds, and thousands.

Beyond the abacus, there are other manipulatives-centimeter cubes, 1" flat tiles, abacus tiles (to allow tangible working with large numbers), a geared clock, and best of all LOTS of games.  I'd say the games are the best part of this curriculum and something that really sets it apart.  There are games for every concept that students learn, and they are having too much fun playing and trying to beat you to realize how much they are learning.  Keeping score becomes part of the math lesson itself as the winner is the first to reach 100 or to reach 0 counting down from 500.  A large emphasis is placed on fives and tens, and that's visually reinforced as they use the abacus (where 3+4 = 7, but is visually discriminated as 5 and 2, as you can see in the picture above).  Because students play so many games, worksheets and written drills are kept to a minimum, which is a blessing to students who are reluctant writers.  The curriculum is based on levels NOT GRADES, and you move through them at the correct pace for your child and your life.
Math is bitter-sweet for me, as I am on my final child moving through the RightStart program.  I can honestly say my children run the full gamut of natural mathematical ability, so we have really put RightStart through its paces.  My low IQ Aspergers child moved straight from this into Teaching Textbooks 7, and then into Pearson Algebra.  While he lacks the intelligence to break down a large problem into the steps required to solve it, once I help him break each problem down, his math skills are solid enough to solve them.  My next child is artsy, and not mathematical at all, but she's currently doing VideoText Algebra, which is no slouch of a program, and managing it well, much to her chagrin (she was hoping I'd let her opt out of higher level math).  TJ is my first to use RightStart's Level G, which is a Geometry based middle school math.  This level is self taught, and not taught by the teacher as all the other levels are.   He's very mathematical, and only isn't doing algebra this year to provide some separation between him and his sister.  Finally, there is my small girl.  She's a little behind academically, so RightStart works perfectly for her-allowing us to take things at the pace that is right for her, not right for other kids her age.  She loves the games especially.
RightStart's scope and sequence is vastly different from a "traditional" curriculum, and you must understand that going into it.  In the end, I can assure you it all balances out.   Your child might not learn multiplication at the same time their public school peers would be doing it, but they will learn it, and they will understand it forward and backward.  They will play with numbers, and they will like it-I promise.  In fact, I have to shoo my other kids away every time my youngest and I start playing one of her math games...or sometimes I let them play with her while I get something else done.  On the plus side, it's made MY mental math stronger too.
Corners, one of our favorite math games

Right Start is currently updating their whole curriculum, but that will take years to complete.  Part of the rewrite will split book C into two books, as C has always been quite lengthy, and it has been hard for people who think in the "one book a year" mind frame to adapt to the idea that book C might take longer than a year to complete.  While "updated research" has been applied to the new rewrite, the original ones are still perfectly fine to use, and will serve you well.  I know I could now sell my Level B since we are done with it, but doing so almost makes me sad, as it was the first Right Start book I ever bought, and it's sad (although good) to think I don't need it anymore.
So if you are looking for a math curriculum that helps you really know and understand math rather than just memorize basic facts, I can't suggest Right Start highly enough.

If you want to see what other members of the Virtual Curriculum Fair had to say about Discovering Patterns: Mathematics, Logic, and Science, check out the blogs below.

Learning about Patterns in Our World Through Math and Science by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World

Relaxed Homeschooling: Mathematics in the Early Elementary Years by Brittney @ Mom's Heart

Using a Bible-Based Math Curriculum by Tauna M @ Proverbial Homemaker

Math, Science and Logic for 2015 by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

Playing with Numbers by Sarah @ Delivering Grace

Unschooling Science by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset

Logically Speaking: Math, Science, and Logic for 7th Grade  by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

Numbers and Molecules! by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays

Math and Science in Our Homeschool by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life

5 Math & Logic Resources We Love by Becky @ Milo & Oats

Giving Your Kids The Right Start With Math by Amy @ One Blessed Mamma

Math in Our Classical / Charlotte Mason Homeschool by Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm

Classical STEM by Lisa @ Golden Grasses

Math, Science and Logic - How do we Tackle Them? by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

The Physics of Delight-Directed Learning by Susan @ The Every Day of Education

Tackling High School Science by Debra @ Footprints in the Butter

Choosing Math Curriculum for Special Learners by Heather @ Only Passionate Curiosity

Math for all ages by Denise @ Fullnest

Middle School Monday - Math With Fred by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

Learning With Math and Science Resources  by Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road

Want to see what others use for Discovering Patterns? Click the linky button below:
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