Wednesday, January 26, 2011

math curriculum review: Right Start Math

IMG_0764Ever since our first day of “official” homeschooling, five years ago when our oldest son was in kindergarten, math has always been our most challenging subject.  I am not a “math person.”  Although I understand and can perform all the functions of elementary and intermediate math just fine, I have discovered that explaining these lessons – the actual teaching of math – is very difficult for me to do.

Each year we have tried a new math program, in search of something that is academically challenging, would truly fit my children’s learning styles and still be easy for me to teach.  I had just about given up hoping that such a curricula existed, until this year when we began using Right Start Math for Rose.  What an amazing difference this has made for our math lessons!

This program has everything that I’ve been looking for in an elementary math curricula.  It is very hands-on - great for my kinesthetic learners! - with all of its lessons centered around a wide variety of manipulatives and teaching aids.  The teacher’s manual provides thorough instructions for each activity, saving me both the time and frustration of trying to prepare these on my own.  It is a conceptual program, teaching the reasoning behind each math skill, with incremental lessons that offer just the right amount of new information for my child to learn.  Most importantly, Right Start’s teaching method is derived from what is used in countries like Singapore and Japan, where students score much higher in math than students in America and Europe.  Singapore Math is the only other curriculum I know of that uses this method, which I like very much in theory, but have found that program to be very hard to teach.

For this school year, I purchased the Level B curriculum for Rose, which includes the teacher’s guide, student workbook and a huge boxful of manipulatives.  Everything is provided in the package that we need for our lessons, which really makes my job as teacher very easy!  The teacher’s guide gives a list of needed materials at the top of each lesson, and it usually takes me about five minutes to gather what we need and prepare for teaching.  Each lesson is completely scripted, giving me the exact wording to use as I guide my child through the activites.  Of course these are only suggestions, but for math-challenged moms like me, it is very much appreciated!
I also really appreciate the organization of the teacher’s manual as it gathers all of the scripting, instructions for the activities and extra practice for the lessons into one place.  I don’t waste any time – or get frustrated! – flipping through different sections or books searching for what I need to teach.  All of our materials fit nicely into one big basket, which Rose loves to pull out and get everything set up for math time.

The lesson itself usually takes about 20-30 minutes for us to complete.  We begin each day with 5-10 minutes of warm-up exercises and skill review.  The main lesson then begins with various projects using the manipulatives as Rose discovers and then practices the new concept.  Opportunity for extra practice is given if she needs more work in order to understand the lesson.  Sometimes a worksheet is assigned, which I allow Rose to do on her own, as independent work.  We really have so much fun working through these lessons together.  It definitely feels more like we’re playing games or working on puzzles than having a math class!
One final item that really impressed me about this publisher is the quality of their customer service.  I called their company a few times last spring, when I was still in the process of deciding whether we should try this program.  They were so helpful to answer all of my questions about their product, and spent a lot of time helping me figure out which level to place Rose in.  They even assisted me with General, who is in 5th grade and just beyond the levels of Right Start (their curricula currently goes through 5th grade), by recommending other publishers for the upper elementary grades whose curricula would be compatible with the foundations given in the Right Start program.

We began using this program as soon as it arrived last spring, so it has been a total of about six months now.  This is the first year of our homeschooling journey that I can truly say that math is enjoyable for our family.  My only regret is not having found this years ago!


  1. It does sound like a great way to learn - and teach!

  2. Hi Collette! I just wanted to let you know that you won the giveaway I was hosting!! :) I was so happy you won! I hope you enjoy the book as much as I have. I have a health situation here right now and I was just referring to the book for help. :)

    Anyway, I wanted to try to contact you really quick in case I'm not available later. Just send me an e-mail with your address (there's an e-mail button at the top right of my blog), and I'll send it when I can. We are right in the midst of a winter storm with an ice storm predicted for tonight (which I'm not really looking forward to, as that sometimes means loss of power!). It may be several days before I'm able to get out and mail it or respond to e-mail (preparing for the worst!). I just wanted to let you know, in case I can't be contacted for a few days.

    I hope you have a great day!

  3. Hi Collette~

    It's me again! Someone just alerted me to the fact that my e-mail button isn't working! Sorry about that! Now I've put my e-mail on my profile page. If you click on my profile there is a link that says e-mail and it will take you there.


  4. Oh, if I could only do math over with a program like this! I know I should be careful what I wish for, but it looks like fun!

  5. Thank you, Joy! How exciting - I've never won a blog giveaway before! :0) Very much looking forward to reading the book!

    Mrs. Bill, I'm sure Jenna would L♥VE to have a special math lesson with Grandma, if you ever have a hankering to play with some math manipulatives :) hehe

  6. How much student/adult interaction is required at each age level? My wife and I are considering this program, but with a 1 month old and a 2 year old, we are concerned about making it work for our 1st and 3rd graders? Any insight or tips you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

  7. I also have a baby and a just-turned-3 year old, so I can definitely appreciate your concerns about scheduling your schooldays! :)

    I would say Right Start requires a high level of parent/child interaction because the program is designed for the parent to guide the student through the activities and instruction.

    That said, I still find it easy to teach and weave into our days...for a few reasons.

    First of all, the lessons are incremental and (for lack of a better word!) gentle - it has been easy for me to teach, and easy for my daughter to learn, even if the little ones are being noisy or distracting.

    Also, since a major portion of each lesson consists of fun activities w/the manipulatives, I let my 2/3 year old join in with us & he has learned a little bit, too. Actually, there are some manips even the baby can play with... everybody stays happy :)

    Lastly, most lessons take about 30 minutes to complete. If it goes any longer, I usually stop anyway (attention span for 2nd graders) & continue on the next day. In the past, when we have used other curricula that are less parent-involved (such as a workbook-type program) I found that I would still spend at least this much time explaining the lessons or helping my child through the exercises.

    I know it can be challenging at times to fit all of the schoolwork in when there are little ones that require so much attention, too. Here are some ideas that have worked for us...
    I usually save the most challenging subjects for the afternoon during the little ones' naptime, since the house is much quieter :) On the days when that doesn't work out, I will have one older child play with the littles (play dough, coloring, blocks, etc.), while I work on lessons with the other one. When my baby was small, I kept him with me in a sling, or right on the school table in his bouncy chair (he loved being right in the middle of it all!). As soon as he was old enough, I would put him in the playpen for a short time to get used to being that his is crawling everywhere it works out well that he enjoys being in it. I keep the playpen right next to my chair at the school table & he'll play happily for a long time. I also invested in several gates to use around the house, so he can safely crawl around in whatever room we are using during schooltime w/o my needing to constantly chase after him.

    If you have more questions about the curricula, I'd recommend calling the customer service number on their website. I had many questions before purchasing the program & they were very helpful!

    Hope this helps! God bless you & your family in your journey of home education!

  8. Hi, how old is Jenna when you started using the Level B RS? Thanks

  9. My daughter was 6 when we started Right Start B.

  10. Hello. I wanted to ask how using this curriculum has been? Have you continued on with it? I have been using Math-U-See with my daughter for 2 years now and she doesn't seem to be understanding it completely or enjoying it. I am very interested in purchasing this system just trying to make sure due to the cost. Thank you.

    1. Hello, Fantastic 3! Right Start is still my top favorite math curric :) and I've been very pleased with the results I've seen with it, in our experience so far. It does take a little more of my time during the day than other curricula we have used in the past, because it is set up for the parent to directly teach each lesson (the student cannot do the work on their own). However, each lesson is completely scripted, making it *very* easy to teach & also requiring very little preparation on my part. Honestly, I think the direct involvement of the parent has a lot to do with the success of the program. In the past, we have used other math currics that allowed my children to be a little more independent or self-teaching....and those have never worked well for us!! We have been (and will continue!) using RS for all of our children during their early-elementary years, transitioning into a more "traditional" (pencil & paper) curricula for their older grades.

      My kids didn't enjoy math, either, until we tried out this program. :) All of the activities & manipulatives really are a lot of fun! The cost up front is a little higher than with other currics, but it is much better after the first year since most of the manipulatives are used again in each level, with only a few additional supplies needed each year after. Also, everything is re-usable (if you have other children?). And I have seen used sets for sale at homeschool curriculum sales...that might be a less expensive route to go, too!

      Hope this helps!


Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! Things are pretty busy around our house, so I can't always leave as many replies as I would like to. But please know that I look forward to reading every note you send my way - they brighten my day! Blessings,Collette

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