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A few weeks ago I shared a bit about our reading and spelling curriculum, so this week I’m going to share a bit about the math curriculum we use!
When it comes to teaching math to preschoolers, there tends to be two main camps: no curriculum (kids learn alongside you as you count things, read books about numbers, jump up and down a certain number of times, etc) and curriculum (following some sort of published guide).
With my firstborn, I wasn’t really sure what to do and since I knew my daughter was really into stories, a friend suggested we try Life of Fred. This is an interesting curriculum — it’s just a series of books with an ongoing story about a character named Fred. The cool thing about these books is that kids can see how math is used in day to day life, not just as random things they need to learn with no real-life application.
My daughter really loved this series, but during her Kindergarten year I felt we needed something a bit more robust. The only other curriculum I’d really seen was Saxon Math, and I didn’t love how that particular one was laid out, so I started asking for suggestions from others in our homeschool co-op at the time. One friend I spoke to was a former math teacher with a masters in math, and she steered me towards RightStart Math. She told me it was the best curriculum she had seen, and given her background, I was happy to take her word for it!
Our Experience with RightStart Math
We started using RightStart about half way through my daughter’s Kindergarten year and I was really impressed with how easy it was to teach (it’s completely scripted, though the downside is that you DO have to teach it – you can’t just leave your kid to do a series of worksheets on their own while you move onto your next kid’s subject). I also love that it’s based on Asian math (lets’ face it, Asian countries are consistently ranked smartest in the world for math – my husband is also Chinese and brilliant at math, so using a strong math program is important to us).
Some other things I love about RightStart: students learn multiple strategies for accomplishing tasks (eventually they can choose which method they prefer), it focuses on the WHY behind math and not just the HOW, and it focuses on visualization and language strategies rather than counting up by 1s (e.g., 8+2=10 rather than 8+2=8…9…10).
Generally, my children have thrived using RightStart – though we do still have our days where everything is too hard and many tears are shed. On those days, I shorten the lesson and we either come back to it later in the day, or the following day.
The curriculum is very manipulative heavy. This can make RightStart fairly expensive, however the kit is reused for every level and the tactile nature of it really helps to make math a lot less dry, and visualizing things really helps them stick in the student’s mind.
RightStart also comes with lots of games to help reinforce concepts, and my kids *usually* enjoy playing them – in fact, my eldest will often sit down and play a game with our preschooler while I work on something else.
RightStart is laid out so that each level can be completed in a school year, doing 4-5 lessons per week. We have mostly followed this, however if lessons are particularly easy for a student, then we may do 2 or 3 in a day (this mostly happened in Level A and sometimes in B).
This year, I have 3 kids doing RightStart. I have a 4 1/2 year old in A (about 10 minutes x 3 days per week), a first grader 3/4 way through B (about 20 minutes x 4-5 days per week. He will move to C in a couple of months), and a third grader about 3/4 way through C (about 20-30 minutes x 4-5 days per week. She’ll move to D in a couple of months).
While the levels can align with the student’s grade level, it’s important to take the placement test so that your student works at the level that’s right for them. Some students may fly through multiple levels in a year (my friend’s rising kindergartener has almost finished level B and I totally wouldn’t be surprised if she gets to D before the school year is out), whereas an older student may need to start on B. It’s so important to remember that learning is not a race. When children have a lot of gaps, it makes it so much harder to learn higher level concepts. So do the placement test and go from there!
How to Get RightStart
While RightStart works best when you have *all the things*, there are ways to work within smaller budgets. Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll need:
- 1 Book Bundle per level taught
- Additional student workbook if teaching more than 1 student in that level
- A set of manipulatives
- Best: RightStart 2 Kit – this is the complete manipulative kit
- Good: RightStart SuperSaver Kit – this kit contains some of the hard to find and most important items with a free printable containing some of the cards and MP3 downloads of the songs.
- OK: If budget is a big issue, then I would suggest getting the following items at a minimum (being aware that you will have to spend some time finding/printing/making alternatives for the missing pieces):
- You may also find it helpful to have an extra abacus if you’re teaching more than one student.
RightStart has free shipping year round, so it’s possible to try some things to start with and then add to your collection without worrying about having to pay for shipping multiple times.
If you decide it’s not going to work for you, RightStart will refund your purchase, excluding shipping expense, when you return the item(s) within sixty days from the date of receipt. Items returned must be in same condition as when purchased. Removing wrapping from the items is acceptable.
As a bonus, most of the products are made in the USA, so they don’t seem to be having quite as many fulfillment issues as many other curriculum providers are having at the moment.
Are you looking for a math curriculum you can use with your whole family? We’ve loved using RightStart Mathematics. You can learn more by checking out the rest of my blog posts on this curriculum, or visiting the RightStart website to get started!
*I am a RightStart Mathematics Affiliate, and am committed to writing a monthly blog post about our journey with this curriculum. Any purchases you make using my affiliate links will earn me a small commission (this will not affect the cost to you!).