Straight Math Advice cont. RS and other

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  • joannarammell

    Hello all you Math Mamas (should I say and maybe Papas?) 🙂

    I decided to start a new thread–because I was trying to keep up with 3 different ones…and many of the answers overlap.  Plus that first one was getting long and I kept having to cycle through the pages and hunt up things…I will be refering to it still to see if I can finish answering there…but let me see if I can knock out a few of our past topics right now while supper is finishing.

    Fractions come to mind first –sorry… my memory seems to be going…though the OB laughed and said it was busyness not birthing!

    I have tutored people in college calculus and when push came to shove…their algebra was weak…and their algebra was weak because they could not do fractions.  Now many can’t do fractions because they don’t know quickly and without a bunch of thought their multiplication tables.  But we already discussed that in the thread Choosing Math.  The ability to do basic fractions–addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division is so vital…algebra is not really possible without it.  So much of Algebra is glorified fractions.  RS has one of the BEST manipulatives that I have seen for fractions.  I love the manipulatives just for that one great amazing wooden tray with fractions pieces up to 1/12…yes all the fractions.  It is fab.  You can see the relationship between 1/12 and 1/4 for example easily. This manipulative is so great because memorizing how to manipulate symbols on a piece of paper is just not where it is at.  A child (or an adult for that matter) needs to really understand what 1/3 means. And why a number multiplied by a fraction gets smaller, and why 1/12 is actually smaller than 1/3, etc. Don’t skimp on the fractions. (FYI I really liked the picture book Multiplying Menace by Pam Calvert.)

    Now I am going to address another concern about not knowing a lot of math or not being comfortable with math.  Learn with your child.  YOU can do this.  If you can organize a CM education, nature, hymn, picture, and music study (I’m sure I left something out), chronological coordinated History, Literature, Bible, and Geography…just to name a small portion of it…I KNOW you can do this.  LEARN it …Teaching is the BEST way of learning.  Don’t move on until YOU have mastery.  Just think how much easier it will be to teach the next set! 

    Also, if you have ANY skill with language whether foreign or English…YOU especially can do it.  Math is just one more language with it own rules…and it is actually way more logical than English!  Remember that there has been a myth perpetrated on ourselves and our country during these dumbed down years…the myth is math is hard.  i can’t do math.  i must not have an aptitude.  Almost all of this that YOU believe (if you do) came from a decision that YOU made in RESPONSE to a teacher that did not reach you…through accident, neglect, or ignorance.  I have yet to meet a person (I’m sure they exist) who cannot learn to get a basic grasp of math IF motivated.  I promise you no matter what happened in YOUR schooling …you CAN do it and YOU are the perfect person to teach your child math!

    I believe it is — I am, I can, I ought, I will.  I posted that on my wall this week.  Not for my children, not for my husband…but for myself!

    more soon.




    Extremely well said!  I feel really motivated right now!  Moments ago my younger son (not quite 7) looked up the math U see site and was watching the sample lesson videos.  He had the algebra 1 video playing and I was stunned–I couldn’t even imagine being able to understand all that, but you are right.  If you start at the beginning of any book and read every chapter in order, you will understand the end.  It only makes sense that math works the same way.  And I am more motivated now for my children’s sake than I was twenty years ago (gasp!) in high school.  Thanks for the pep talk!



    If you know there are gaps in your child’s math education or if she is struggling with a particular concept…I would like to recommend two different possible helps.

    One is the Key to…books from Key Curriculum Press  just scroll down.  They are reasonable, but consumable.  They have a well laid out cartoon like explanation at the top (with all steps shown) and then problems to work through.  It is very systematic and clear.  Each set of books addresses a particular problem.  They are very simple.  This is not a full curriculum. 

    An aside note, I used to teach from Key Curriculum Press’ Discovering books, Discovering Algebra, Discovering Geometry, etc.  I LOVE them.  But whether to use them in homeschool high school would be a whole new thread.

    The other source I would recommend is  (read what follows BEFORE clicking on link) Systematic Mathematics  I must tell you straight up front.  This is a no frills DVD program.  The man is GOOD.  But he is just (pardon me for being blunt) an older man teaching math very plainly.  He looks kind of like Santa Claus and he stands in front of the board and teaches….BUT it is SO sparkling clear…and decent and in order that he has been a hit with the students that have chosen to go this route for help.  This is a non consumable…you recieve the dvds with the lessons AND the pages to print.  I found it very reasonable.  He actually taught me some things after I had been teaching quite a while.  He has some great ways of remembering math facts…addition and multipication… AND he has a subtraction problem diagnosis method that is great.  Subtraction is a big deal and when there are hidden gaps it can cause problems in other areas…like division. So that is a very worthy reason along with the early hints about remembering math facts…that would potentially make getting even the the 1st elem. level.  I just rechecked…you can download the diagnosing subtraction cd FREE.  He also has a math rescue cd for teens and adults to forward math literacy.  He is not CM necessarily…he is just the meat and the bones of math.  AND EXTREMELY reasonably priced.  I would not recommend this as a full CM math curriculum  but to help with problem areas…very clear.

    Hope these two sources help.

    more later.


    Rachel White

    Can you use the RS fraction manipulatives with another program to assist with the visuals (like one can use an abacus with any program)? My son will do fractions with Developmental Mathematics and my dd will probably be in Math Mammoth at that time. She’s the one who struggles in math, not him.




    Well, I know that I have given out a lot of info in a row.  I was trying to get all the questions answered.  Here are the last two before I go to bed.  That way you can have time to digest it all…think of new questions, comment, or even remind me of one I forgot!  🙂 

    Scheduling RightStart and Multiple Children:

    I would say 15/20 minutes to 40 minutes.  Length of lessons depend on child.  ADHD dawdlers have a harder time sticking with the whole lesson.  Options:  Break into 2 parts, 1 for later in the same day or do 1 lesson over 2 days.  RS has songs and stuff at the beginning (which my children LOVE) I have been known to sing them as we go about doing other things…could do that BEFORE we actually get to the math lesson which would cut the time down on the lesson…in regard to multiple children could do the singing review parts with everyone at the same time.  Certain children will do these lessons fast.  It really does depend on the child. 

    I have four children.  1 is school age right now.  But the other is desperate to do lessons, especially math. I am debating about that…I think he can…should he? is the question.  So I will be teaching using 1 or 2 different levels…and as the younger boys grow…then three level and then four or more different levels…

    Now as far as I can tell it is hard to combine math levels.  and i’m not sure it would be entirely good to do it even if you could.  My children have 3.5 years betwwen them…but if ds starts level a this year and dd is in level b they only have 1 level difference.  So I could potentially speed him through it (it’s his bent) and slow her down a bit…(she wouldn’t mind)…but then I believe that would create problems I don’t want.  Pride on his part and self esteem issues on hers…better that I have two preps and later 4…so that I am doing what ea. child needs individually.  The way math builds on itself…it is vital you teach the child where he or she is at and grow them up in it…versus smoosh (-sp) it altogether and potentially rush one and bore the other.  NOW I don’t plan to hold the ds back either…but if he ever overtakes his sister…I will do my best to downplay it severely…and will try to arrange it so that he (and she) won’t realize it!  I want them trying to best themselves not each other!  I don’t know if that is CM or not.

    Parent friendly?

    Most lessons are two pages facing one another.  They are well laid out, give you great wording and clear directions.  And they have notes throughout to you explaining why they want you to say it such and such way…or why they want you to make sure and not do it like this… etc.  I thought it was pretty friendly.

    So if you start at the beginning or with the transition lessons and don’t look way ahead…I think you’ll do fine.

    Cost and manipulatives:

    The cost did make me gasp at first.  However, the manipulatives are very good quality.  And they have add on sets…so when for instance my daughter needs level c I just get the b to c add on kit instead of the c kit since we already have b.  Also, nothing is consumable…so…I pay one price one time and use it for 4 children so far…cool!  Also you can find it in rainbow resource catalog…if you don’t have one of their hugh catalogs you should request one.  Not always, but almost always cheaper than anywhere else!

    Last question pending, I think is the abacus.  Really I was glad to see exploration of that going on.  The coloring of the abacus is very significant.  Everything is grouped by five.  It has been found that even babies can recognize small quantities without counting.  It is very possible to recognize up to 5 without counting.  So if we can see five without counting we could group things into groups of 5 and 10 and see large numbers easily…hence the abacus is colored to easily see the grouping of numbers…I can put 41 on the abacus and not have to count a thing and just look and know because of the coloring that I am seeing 41.  It is really neat.

    By the end of level b (~first grade) they can add 4 digit numbers on the abacus and on paper.  And I don’t think it is a big stretch.  The program is very incremental.  Master this, ok this is next. etc.

    I think that was all of the questions.  If you have more, let me know.  If we are done, it’s been a pleasure, hope I was able to be a blessing to you…if so…it was only because of what HE has done for me.  To God be the Glory.

    Good Night,



    Absolutely Rachel.  The fraction manipulative is not tied to the program.  I am guessing…you’d have to ck…that you can get it by itself.  If you find that link…maybe you could post it for others..I’m beat tonight.

    You can also make fraction manipulatives…I would have to give some thought to the best method…but that one is great!



    We have fun learning fractions with a game by Learning Resources called Pizza Fractions.  There are several levels so it goes from grade 1 with 1/2, 1/4, and 1/8 all the way up to difficult of adding and subtracting fractions of 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/6, 1/8, 1/12, and 1/16.  My kids love it because they are making pizzas and they can see how the fractions work.


    Thanks for all of your thoughts! Um, where do you live ’cause I think I want to hire you to teach math in our house! Oh, wait, your whole point is that I can do this myself. Well, I’ll keep learning along side of my little ones and have faith that they will learn right along side me :o)

    We are using RS level A. I am teaching two together right now, one six and one 13mo younger five. I am open to splitting them at any time that the combined lessons don’t seem to be working but for right now we all enjoy doing it together.

    My two questions are:

    – I don’t get the “claps and taps” portion of the lessons……please tell me if this is a nessasary portion that we will need to build on later! When I tap out a number I feel like it is clunky because I am having to think/count the taps. And I see the children having to really think and count in their heads before giving me the number answer. Isn’t the point that we recognize groups just by hearing? But neither the kids or I seem to work this way. Will we get it over time if I keep practicing taps and “hearing” numbers?

    -Second, even though I keep emphasizing that we count “five and…..” and that we never need to count the five (abacuse, fingers or tally sticks) because it will ALWAYS be five I still see them sometimes counting the five in their heads before moving on to the “and” part. Will they get this in time through repeated practice? This certainly makes me rethink teaching all the preschool counting to ten games that I played with them, I think I’ll avoid those with my younger ones.



    I like the idea of the pizza fractions –i need to ck it out.

    ok..I’ve had a couple questions…here and pm.  I’ve permission to address them all here.

    Ist and probably the only in this post…what if you have used saxon or something else and you can see it didn’t work…or you are using it and kinda think it is working…but might want to switch later when the child is older?

    I am going to answer this in a round about way…

    Have you ever noticed the way math is really teaching the same operations with different items (for lack of a better word).

    Ck this out.

    1st we learn…addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division (asmd) of whole regular numbers. 

    (place value comes in w/ bigger and bigger #’s)

    then we add in fractions and learn asmd

    then decimals asmd–place value again for smaller numbers and mixed numbers

    percents asmd

    you get the picture

    it goes on into positive and negative numbers asmd

    and then in algebra we stick letters in and learn how to asmd all over again to solve equations  though it gets a bit more complicated (and beautiful) here.

    now what if i told you that there is a finite number of things you need to accomplish before beginning algebra.  (by the way there is nothing wrong with pre-algebra–it isn’t really necessary though…it is just a product of our dumbing down and losing children along the way…arithmetic, algebra, calculus.  (geometry and trig too of course)…but they stuffed pre-algebra in because the students had not mastered arithmetic!)

    And what if I told you it did not matter how you accomplished this list?  any curriculum could do it…even saxon…if you did not go by the curriculum per se…but by the knoweledge that you had a specific set of goals…I could even use saxon…though I would jump around like a fiend and create some order to presentation and probably have to make up a ton of problems and add manipulatives and different sytles of learning, etc.

    Now do I recommend skipping curriculum altogether and recreating the wheel…no.  Ah but do you glimpse the freedom yet?

    So what if you’ve used saxon…or anything else…and it’s getting time to think about transitioning over to algebra…your child is somewhere between 12 and 14…closer to 14 than 12 normally–there is a definite shift here in the ability for abstract thinking…and he or she is not ready.  The curriculum has left gaps maybe, or he didn’t master things…or what…now come in with the finite list…and begin at the beginning literally–w/o a calc. and make sure he has mastery…if you find an area that is weak…stay there until it is strong then move on…use whatvever you can get your hands on…or use systematic mathematics or the key to books…we aren’t looking for fluff…we are looking for substance and clarity.  Straight math.  Tools in the math toolbox so that in algebra he can easily reach in that toolbox and build.

    Now I admit that algebra brings in some new ways of thinking…but will you admit that before algebra—basic math–arithmetic is finite, is doable, and is doable by you…cause you all can asmd…and if fractions or decimals or percents give you a problem you can work through a key book yourself right?

    Does anyone see the possibilities?  RS ends at a certain grade, I forget which.  SO who they know the basics? …go to Ray’s or Singapore or whatever else until algebra…or just spend a year or two cementing in the basics…the basics are key to everything else…

    the “curriculum” is not a mystery…oh…but surely those last years between arithmetic and algebra they are teaching all kinds of new and mysterious things…no, not really…they might be deepening ideas, and they might throw in geometry, but really they are just kind of going through the same stuff until algebra…yes they might introduce variables (letters) in pre-algebra…but variables are an abstract concept and as such the younger children just move them around as symbols on the page.  They don’t have any real concept of what they are yet…would you teach any other subject like that? 

    anybody feel freer yet? 

     I will address algebra and high school later…so far most of you i think are dealing with elem and middle right?

     fyi…i was homeschooled using abeka with no manipulatives in sight and my aunt was my teacher…she took NO huff…in 4th grade I said, I can’t do fractions…I just can’t.  Her response was not only can you but you will before you get to go to sleep tonight.  And I did.  (No I don’t recommend that method of teaching/scheduling.)  I learned the basics extraordinarily well.  I didn’t even know what a manipulative was until college.  And I loved math so much that I started making up ways to arrive at the algebra answers with zero concept of the rules of algebra…so with no one to teach me –to public hs i went.  9th was algebra one…I was a sponge…all i really needed was a book with explanations…and an occasional answer from the teacher (and that’s what I got–he read the newspaper the entire period almost everyday…while we all did algebra around my desk)–I then went on to take algebra 2 and geometry the next year at the same time…I couldn’t get enough of that wonderful order of math…but I am only using myself as an illustration because I am trying to point out that the basics for mastery are most important…than you can do anything…if you have the tools.

    Now why do I think manipulatives are key…they just are…not every one is like my aunt who is going to make the student do it even until 9 at night…and not everyone is like me who did not rebel against math but loved it more and more…and there are so much nicer ways of sharing God’s beautiful language of order. 🙂  Plus in some in college…but really when I began teaching high school using manipulatives… I understood so much more…math was opened even more to me…

    how are you all doing with this idea?

    questions? comments? is it meshing with your experience?  can you relate math better to the other subjects now?


    p.s.  the finite list was not listed above …and it does include being able to translate real world into equations–word problems.  just for the record!

    High school tips are always helpful, my girls who are almost done had their math ruined in 5 years of PS, they changed the curriculum on them 5 times, different systems, methods and awful teaching until my daughters and their classmates were so confused they became math phobic and have always hated it. We have almost finished all our high school subjects, but we are still catching up on math, they will not have time to do more than geometry in high school and it makes me mad that their start was so bad. Being English when I tried to teach them the basics I was told by their US teacher to stop trying to help them because my methods were different from the school method and to trust them to get the job done – it did not work and that is one main reason we got them out of PS at 5th grade – enough was enough and they were having nightmares about the subject. So any hints tips I am sure can help a lot of people – I am a great believer in getting all the basics in their heads – and I am also a great believer in them understanding the reasons why things are done the way they are, not understanding the subject and why we do things is a sure fire way to disaster. Nice to have a math whizz on the forum, I am not one I hasten to add. My hubby is an aerospace engineer and a pilot, so he is very good at the subject but is very busy with his work and is often away cannot devote the time to the higher math that often – so we struggle on – when a kid hates a subject it is very tough going. Linda


    I really really hate to hear it about your girls.  I wish I could get my hands on them and help them see the possibility of success.  Check out this page from Systematic Mathematics… look at the review…I love his quote about himself.  I have the algebra stuff…I have loaned it out to a couple of people having difficulty.  They decided to try it…and it worked for them…once they got over the plainess of presentation.  We are so used to eye candy and flashy things.  I really like the concept of his math rescue also. 

    Now I know some of you think your child has to like everything…and you give them big say in the choices to get their cooperation.  I am not saying you do that missingtheshire…but I think some of us do fall into that trap at times.  I am all for a child liking the delivery…but there are also times when one has to take the medicine…and go against what one thinks one wants…so for those of you whose children look at a plain old man teaching math as too boring for words…if that is what they need…they might have to get over it.  I don’t mean to sound harsh here and obviously they are people, too…but they are young people and don’t always know what is best for themselves or their future.  Is that anti CM…I hope not.  Someone tell me.  It seemed to me that she agreed w/ boundaries and limits and the parents being the authority while still respecting the child’s person.  right?

    ok..storm coming –so last thing- missingtheshire—the end goal of high school math…besides love of the subject and understanding and critical thinking…:-) is to be able to make it through college algebra if needed…and most degrees need it.  So keep in mind that you need the basics…but also the basics of algebra!  the rest is not essential…though some basic geometry is needed…most couses have some.

    again systematic mathematics…and maybe the key books…but in your case…i’d go with sys math. 

    remember their dislike of math stems from fear of failure, a complete disbelief that they could ever be successful…so they write the pursuit off as unworthy, undesirable…haven’t we all done this ourselves at one time or another?  the key to their heart here is to provide opportunities for success…

    i have done this many many times…once with a grandma going back to school :-)–pretty much everytime i had to be a very pleasant rock (firm–determined–at times pushy) of a cheer leader.  i had to provide the belief in them (since they didn’t have any) and yet I had to cheerfully exhort and push and say oh yes you can…now lets try it again…the problem was here…now you do this one…good see I knew you could! etc. etc.  because they had lost their will to even really try.

    but my students did it because i was sure they could and would…and i transferred that belief to them…i convinced them…and then they could so they did.

    also motivate them with making it through college if that is in their dream…

    hope this helps…more on high school if starting at the beginning well as the not counting to five..and taps…i haven’t forgotten. jo

    Actually, we are about to finish Algebra 1 and they did much better with MUS, they were using Teaching Textbooks, but both girls are very visual learners and did not do well with that – we are about to embark on Geometry and then we will be done – I am glad to hear they do not need more than that to go to college – because we should be able to get the Geometry done in the last year. We have had many disruptions these past few years because one daughter has been seriously ill and it is ongoing – so that does not help with school and certainly not with math. We have already taken an extra year for missing a year due to hurricane Katrina and my daughter has missed at least another year through illness – so they will be just 20 when they finish – I have twins – I am not bothered by the delay, health is more important and we could do little while we were being bounced around after losing our home in the storm – that is life and I do not fret about those things too much anymore. However I thought high school tips might be helpful for others who are struggling and in a similar place to where we are and have been. Because they have done well with MUS on Algebra, I have bought the Geometry program as well – we are struggling through these things, but we are getting there. Sorry if I wasn’t very clear, your tips are very true though. Linda


    Lady of the house, 

    I just wanted to let you know you are not alone.  We are using RS-level A and we just don’t get the claps and taps either.  My son really didn’t like to do it and would get upset when we tried.  I eventually stopped trying and hope that it does not come up later in the program.  I’m assuming it is just another method of learning to recognize fives and tens (but for an audio learner). 

    Your other note of counting the fives happens in our house too!  I’m constantly telling my son “Don’t count”.  If I put eight on the abacus he tries to count from one to eight instead of recognizing five and three equals eight.  I’ll say “Don’t count.  You know that this group of blue beads equals _____”.  He will say five and then count six, seven, eight.  We sing “Yellow is the Sun” and he knows all of the words and uses his fingers while singing but he still counts all the time!  

    If anyone has suggestions for the counting please let me know.  I would really, really appreciate it.



    Hello…lets talk about taps and not counting.

    Don’t panic.  First of all, my daughter IS audio…and she didn’t get it.  I asked help from my husband…and she got it for him…he then taught ME to reorganize my tapping…I was going a bit fast or something…he put it to the concept of 4 beat time in music.  Kind of spaced evenly and not just slapped out… 🙂  a description of our personalities 🙂

    after I did that she was fine.

    My 3 almost four is so painfully not audio…that i just experimented with it once and immediately chose not to go there…too much for him now and maybe ever.

    It is not for everyone and not vital.

    the counting versus recognizing quantities up to 5 is important…part of the resistance is just having to relearn how to do something especially if they just liked to count…counting by rote doesn’t take a whole lot…they are now trying to connect it to something concrete…you are making them think and they don’t like it.  i have good news…

    i found a great forum from the actual creators of rightstart and i typed in taps and got several great posts that are exactly applicable to Ladyofthehouse and shabt6 posts.  It address both the taps and the number recognition.

    here it is:

    i hope that helps.

    i will say with new littles…don’t count.  instead put 2 items in front of them and say how many is there.  My 3 y/o looked at me like i was kind of dumb and said 2.  He can do all the way to four easily without counting (mix it up)…and almost has five.  Definitely group larger sets of items into groups of five.  But don’t freak about counting either…just don’t emphasize it…my son counts everything.  Yet periodically, I’ll say tell me how many without counting for quantities up to 5.

    My daughter came to RS later…yet she has made the connection mostly.  however, she confessed the other day to counting…at this point she just needs more practice…and needs not to slip into laziness…it is easier to rote count than think.

    Really ck out that forum…I think you will be relieved at the answers.




    keep reveiwing basic algebra throughout your year of geometry so that it won’t disappear from their minds before college!  just put yourself on a small reveiw schedule as geometry is so totally different that algebra and uses algebra only a bit.


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