Straight Math Advice cont. RS and other

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  • joannarammell

    systematic mathematics will also cover the basics…the elementary levels…but not really hands on—good for review though

    Ok, now I have a question about the counting. We are finishing Level A, ds loves it, loves math, cool beans. But the child went to preschool where they taught him to count, and I honestly think he still counts and hasn’t quite “seen” that the blue beads are 5 and the yellow beads are 5. I mean, I think it started to click a bit more when we were counting by 5s, but I really don’t know how to get a nearly 7 yo to stop counting.

    Then there’s ds nearly 4 yo coming right behind him. What do I do with him? He can say the numbers in order from 1 to 5, but gets 6 to 10 messed up pretty much every time. Am I just teaching him the order and not putting anything with it? He loves his fingers…. 😉  I’m really glad I read this topic tonight bc I was just going to start working some more with the ds on counting, hmmmm. What should I do instead? He sees big brother doing math and wants to learn too. He wants to get his hands on that abacus so badly! lol What do I do?

    Also, is Level B really pretty much the same as Level A? What goes on in Level C? Level A was pretty easy, and a lot of review, but I wanted to make sure we had the basics down.




    ck out this answer about counting that i found…it might be helpful for the older

    don’t skip b…it is deeper, richer…he’ll need it for c –and some stuff will be new…material, methods, and will require a bit more from him

    about the younger…stop counting–you are right about counting at that age just being rote…let him continue to connect it to his fingers.  One day he will look at his hands and have an ah ha moment…five and five are ten he’ll say…and you’ll want to dance!

    i would suggest starting him in level a…doing maybe 1 lesson every two or even 3 days…if he reaches a point where he can not move on developmentally…rest there rehearsing what he has learned up until that point…making a game out of it…I had my 3 almost 4 year old telling me how many potato peelings (I was preparing supper and they were at hand!) there were as I grouped them in a group of 3 or 1 or 2 or 4 or even 5 he could do all without counting.  (My daughter came and wanted to do some too…so I reveiwed with her.  She’s 7.) I would not yet do 6—he isn’t ready yet to understand a group of 5 and 1 more is six…but it probably won’t be long…same with yours…every little bit…i don’t know…use your intuition here…a month, two or three…try the next lesson where you stopped…and see if he is ready.

    hope this helps



    Thanks Jo. So, if I’m understanding about the counting, I think I need to have him work more on visualizing 5 using the abacus. It seems a little weird, though, since we are on lesson 66 in level a. I’ll have to think on it more tomorrow- I’m tired now :).



    the posts you read about counting were referring to a child in level B…so you aren’t doing maybe as badly as you thought 🙂

    yes…visualizing 5 using the abacus is key.

    keep practicing.

    when I taught 9th grade algebra one…the students where 13-15…and some of them could do certain things and understand certain topics and other COULD NOT…and I had to keep teaching…knowing that the development was going to happen any day now…and it did…one day a light switch flipped and the student would “suddenly” get abstract concepts that had just yesterday befuddled him. 

    I know we are speaking of much younger children…but it is the same thing…keep plugging away at it…and sometimes keep slowly and gently moving on…but play the games…use tally,  dots, abacus, potato peels, fingers, everything to get what FIVE is.  He needs the visual in his head!



    oh, and becky…there are TONS of ideas on that RS forum…I searched still counting and counting.  And they have examples of playing the math games on you tube. jo

    I totally understand that, Jo! I actually think that math is my favorite subject to hs with my son. And that is why – I get to see him go through each lesson, sorta getting, sorta struggling, until the day when …. lightbulb! Its aslso the reason I really think RS is a good program bc he has to THINK. If I gave him a bunch of worksheets on addition, he’d do great, fill them in, get them all right, but I know, having watched him go through several exercises, that he doesn’t really always UNDERSTAND what he is doing. With RS, when he understands, its an amazing moment!

    As an aside, today I had him use the abacus to show me 5, 8, 7, etc. and there was NO counting. So maybe we are doing better than I thought. I’m excited to start Level B! 🙂 Becky  btw, I will start to check out the RS forum (I’m sucha newbie, ha!)



    I have not used MOL but am very familiar with RS…I’ve used RS with my last 4 children over the last 7 years.

    Dr. Cotter, who developed RS, has a doctorate in mathematics.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her in person and she is a dynamo.  One thing that impressed me is her desire and commitment to see children excel in math.  She really believes that all children can understand math but many don’t because of the way they are taught.

    In RS the children are taught to see quantities rather than rely on counting.  I was a finger counter until I taught my children RS….and while I’m thrilled my children are learning I’m amazed that I can teach this old dog new tricks….I never realized how much I didn’t know till I started using RS to teach my children.  Hahaha!!!

    I did well in school and actually really liked Algebra.  I taught my first 5 children using a variety of math curriculum….Saxon, Making Math Meaningful, Professor B, Ray’s, Singapore, Mastering Mathematics, Keys to, a computer program [ALEKS] and a few others I can’t recall the names of.  I am not knocking any of these curriculums but stating them so you can see that I have been exposed to many different ways of teaching math.

    I transitioned my oldest 3 children, after using all these other programs and getting frustrated, into Level E of RS.  It was challenging for them and the biggest complaint I got from them is…..”why do I have to think, why can’t you just tell me what to do?”   Until this point I had no idea I was just telling my children what to do.  And yet when I look back now after using RS from Level B through The Geometric Approach I can see how most of the other math curriculums really don’t teach our children to think.

    My youngest two boys have only used RS.  I started them in Level B.  One, 7th grader, is now half way through The Geometric Approach and the other, 5th grader,  just finished Level E.  What’s interesting is that when my boys were getting ready to go into Level E, their sisters who started in Level E would tell them…..”just wait till you get to Level E….it’s hard!!”   Let’s just say my daughters were disappointed that their brothers didn’t find Level E hard.  lol!!!!

    RS is very different in its teaching approach.  Seeing quantities rather than count is one of them.  Yet after going through all the Levels I can now truly see the benefits of teaching them this way.  And a side benefit is I am no longer a finger counter and math makes so much more sense to me.  One of the benefits in teaching children to see the quantity of 5 in a number is that it opens up a whole new way of seeing patterns in math. 

    Many times in math we isolate different concepts, especially in the traditional way of teaching math.  The problem is that it’s harder for most children to see the patterns.  Math is really all about patterns and it’s quite amazing when you can finally start understanding and seeing them.  Sure there are children and adults who just “get it” when it comes to math and it probably doesn’t matter which curriculum you use for them as they see and think mathematically.  But there are many children and adults, like myself, who don’t think mathematically.  RS is excellent in teaching not only children, but adults to think mathematically.

    I have not used MOL but when I was looking at the samples I see that their teaching is the traditional way of doing math….example….in RS the child learns to do ALL double digit addition and subtraction mentally….NEVER on paper….the child is taught strategies [one main one is starting with the tens] and given ample lessons to practice those strategies.  In MOL they teach double digit the traditional way of writing it down and starting with the ones.  I’ve taught my children both methods and can say the way RS teaches it is the only way I’ll teach it now.

    With my youngest boys they have only used the RS curriculum.  Rather than supplement with another program in areas I feel they may still be weak in….we play the games.  I had seriously looked at supplementing with another program for fractions but in looking at the Math Games book I realized that all the areas of working with fractions is covered in games.  So, we are playing fraction games this summer and once again I am impressed with the depth of learning taking place and the amount of thinking on my boy’s part.

    Ex:  we’ve been playing a fraction game where we can add or subtract basic fractions like 1/4, 2/3, 7/10, 3/9 etc….to equal one or one-half.  Today we played the game to equal one-half.  So one of our rows looked like this…..2/5 – 3/5 + 1/5 + 5/10 = ½.  I LOVED watching my boys get the fraction board and figure out the answers.  We didn’t write anything down, we didn’t try to find the common denominator, we just played the cards in our hands and they had to figure it out mentally while looking at the fraction board.  I lappreciate that the fraction board is set up so we can see the fractions linearly rather than in a pie shape.  Seeing fractions linearly really helps us see  how 2/10 = 1/5 and how 3/9 = 1/3…etc.  And playing these games gets the boys very familiar and used to figuring out how much of one fraction it takes to make another fraction.

    And while I am extolling RS and LOVE the program….know there is no perfect curriculum.  One thing I hear a lot of is how RS is teacher intensive.  Level A is gentle and you should only spend about 10-15 minutes a day.  But when you get to Level B and higher, it does take about 30 minutes to teach a day.  When you have multiple children the time can add up. …and for many mom’s that can be a drawback. 

    Another area is that the way children are taught in this curriculum is much different than the way most of us have learned in school and it can be a bit daunting when we don’t really understand why we are to teach what we are teaching.  Or when we teach the lesson and don’t always understand where Dr. Cotter is going with the lesson because it may seem like it jumps around.  Yet when you get to that place where it all comes together….it’s almost magical. 🙂

    My suggestion is consider the cost….and I don’t just mean the financial cost.  I personally have found the money I spent on RS to be some of the best money I’ve spent.  What I mean is when looking at a math curriculum the parents need to look at the long term.  In America, our children do comparative to the world in math till about the 4th grade and then we start to decline.   WHY??  Why do the children in America not do as well as the children in Asian countries?? That is the question Dr. Cotter asked when she was doing her research.     One of the goals of RS math is to help children excel in higher math by laying a strong foundation in the basics.

    It took me two years after finding RS to actually purchase it and use it.  At the time I had 5 children at home needing instruction and our finances were tighter than tight.  Yet at one of the homeschool conferences, after two years of trying less expensive curriculum, I listened to a RS workshop on fractions and sat in the chair with my mouth on the floor by what I was learning.  I thought how I’ve been to school….enjoyed math….and actually did pretty well.  Yet here I was seeing things I had NEVER seen before.  And I knew that this is what I wanted my children to learn now…..not when they were my age. 

    So I had to consider the cost both financially and time commitment.  I put some of my children together because that’s what was needed and what worked for us.  And when they were ready to be separated ….they were separated.  I still have 4 children doing math at 4 different levels.  Two are still in RS and two are working through VideoText.  There are days where I still spend at least 30 minutes with three of my children [for a total of 11/2 hours].  And there are days some don’t get math done at all….very rare but it does happen.  But there is no greater joy in teaching than to see the sparkle in their eyes and the light bulb going off when they “get it”.  And I LOVE that they have to think through concepts and it’s not me telling them what to do but rather working alongside helping them discover.

    I didn’t write this to tell you what to do but rather hope that in giving my testimony it might help you to decide.  I am more than willing to answer any and all questions.





    Oh…thank you so much for taking the time to write all of this and I can show my husband. In all of these years…he hasn’t understood our struggle with math  except that he tried to figure a “hard” spot with MUS and Developmental Math and even he couldn’t figure it out. He did Algebra in college and got a C in it and really didn’t “understand” what he was doing. Our schools didn’t require algebra to graduate from high school.

    So…RS doesn’t need anything to go with it or could help it in anyway?  No Key To bks., Rays or Math Mammonth for oral & Written review of word problems or Systematic Math? Maybe I need to sell my “Rays” and Prof. B CD’s  to help me pay for  RS.

    I know what you are talking about with RS. I got a “glimpse” of this when using Cusinaire Rods and cards and a few books years ago. I use to have a Geoboard with a little booklet, Pentominos with workbook, I still have Rainbow Fraction Manipulatives…but I could never put it together. I also saw Miquon math years ago but couldn’t do it. Someone who was a “real” math person told me to never go with Saxon because it was “spiral” and explained it to me YEARS ago. so i stayed away from it like the plague and other programs like it. She explained “real” math and told me to get the above items but there I didn’t know what to do. I needed guidance…she didn’t being a math person.

    Should we start with Lvl. B Starter and buy the B to C Add On and wait to get C to D? Shipping is free at 225. I want to get at least 6 mo. to a years worth of work. I’m sure that my 12 & 14yr. old will whiz through B fairly quickly. I have no idea how long it would take to get through B to C Add On. I know that we need to get going. Maybe we should do 30min. in the morning and an extra 15m or 30m. in the afternoon?I know that CM way is to have “short” lessons of like 20min?

    What do you think?

    You don’t know how much appreciate this. I will need some real hand holding through this process. After all that we have been through and me not knowing anything math except I know how to figure simple percents and short division and very simple fractions. My husband can help some.  I had given up after so many years. 6 children and many years and now “I!” have math anxiety and at one time when I was doing cusinaire back in 1991 when our oldest was 9yrs.old. I remember looking forward to learning the math that I never learned in school. I got a C in basic math. Then later it just almost made me sick and of course that got passed down and I just know that there is something inside of me that says that this is not the case. I want to see the “sparkle” in my last 2 children left at home that He gave us. That would be such a joy for all of us have the “light bulb” come on! Quantities is how the Lord God would look at math it seems doesn’t it?

    I can’t thank you enough!!

    Blessings, Cyndi




    Okay, we are going to start with B and begin simple and go through quickly as they master it or understand it completely. Somehow I need to get the up to speed. They are 12 and 14. 30min. 2 X a day work up to?

    I had heard that the Transition past E (F&G) & or Geometry has some “bugs” to work out and the lady from RS told me that it would be better to go to Video Text Alg. after E because of their age but this will take some time.

    1. RS-Discovery using Nanipulatives & Stories to enliven it. When you say stories, do you mean like Word Problems that they often use and what would be the “difference”.

    2. If you know about these- Key To & Systematic Math- Holes or Gaps they don’t understand to fill in.  Would Rays or Math Mammonth  be used like Key To’s? How are Key To’s different and why you like them over Rays. Have you seen Math Mammonth?    OR RS is enough for total mastery?

    Thanks so much for your precious help.




    debbie…thank you so much for your awesome posts.  you were so articulate and used such great were eloquent and said it in a way i never could have…it was great to hear it from the perspective of having been there…I know that your posts will inspire and bless many…you were a blessing to me last night at 2 or 3am whenver it was (got up to feed baby)…went back to bed smiling.


    stories are not word problems…stories are stories or books with a math theme or about a mathematician…like learning about archimedes disobeying the command from the soldier b/c he was busy figuring in the dirt…living books…i think it was richele that mentioned some good ones earlier, I have mentioned Flatland, Multiplying Menace, and I’ve hear that A Place for Zero is also good.  remember that many of the men that we know as scientists were also mathematicis…i have a great resource somewhere —ah here it is short stories from the history of mathematics…  from Carolina supply…  it’s a book full of little glimpses into a whole bunch of different mathematics…one i remember was about a mathematician who was trying to move a round table through a doorway…he measured this way and that…went back to his study, did his calculations, and came back announcing…it CANNOT be done…only to find that his wife had already moved the table through the door by herself.  🙂 the stories were enough to intrigue you to possibly find out more.

    y’all all have a blessed day.





    How often or days do you use these “stories” in a week and how long in a day do you spend reading them?  Do you run out of these “stories”? How many books do you use?

    Do you use “word problems?” Are word problems CM?

    Thanks so much Joanna. You are a God send to me. I have so much to learn.



    as do we all!  Cyndi, we all have areas we need HELP.  I know I do!

    ok…stories/living books…i’d do it as naturally as i could.  i mean if you are studying archimedes time or galileo’s time…read about them add in a biography or some such about them…flatlands is about 2-d versus 3-d…kind of like people that are flat like paper dolls.  multiplying menace is picture book about multiplying by a number to make the original quantity (have more of itself) bigger or (smaller…a place for zero is also a picture book about zero…and his place…zero is very important…without zero there is much in math that we couldn’t do…and it was very significant when in history someone “discovered” zero…

    studying pythargorus is fascinating…he had a kind of school or enclave…the pythagorium theorum a squared + b squared = c squared is very very necessary to euclidean geometry and to all building projects just about!  it is math for triangles.

    so it doesn’t have to be forced or stilted…get a list of mathematicians and the dates they lived…there are some in the modern era too…that dicovered things to do with computers…

    and their are FEMALE mathematicians…even in the past eras…one was a girl who’s family used a math textbook for wallpaper if I remember the story correctly…

    i would not say that there would be any requirement as to quantitiy…maybe you could do it like picture study and hymn study and music study…pick 6 mathematicians per year coordinated with the history you are teaching…Egyptians had an obvious success with math…check out those perfect pyramids!  and the mayans…

    i don’t know…i haven’t thought it through …these are just brainstorming ideas.

    someone with more cm experience…speak up quick before i say something wrong!!!

    more on word problems later,




    word problems.

    hmmm.   mathematics is just a language used to describe the real world in a kind of short hand that pretty much everyone in the world recognizes with a few variations.

    so a very simple example is that susie had five apples and ate two.  how many did susie have?

    we can translate all the words of a problem…sometimes paragraphs worth or even pages of words…into simple symbols.

    the ex. above could be written 5-2=?  and we all know 5-2=3.

    remember this is a simple example.  there are many many reasons to represent the words with the mathematical symbols, easier to manipulate, to write, to remember, to represent, to cross languages, to…

    I haven’t any rs levels above b…but even in a and b there are word problems…

    i mentioned the pythagorian theorem earlier, a^2 + b^2 = c^2…if that was not connected to something…i.e. a right triangle with the longest side, hypotenuse called c—it would be meaningless.

    what about e=mc^2.  we’ve all seen that and yet few of us really understand einstein…but for those that do…each symbol represents something important in the real world that at one point was described with words.

    the symbols simplify things for everyone…

    but when you divorce the symbols from the words…you have a bunch of symbols with no meaning that are being manipulated and you are getting more symbols that are not attached to anything real.  most curriculums are set up this way.

    so what i am trying to say is that math is all word problems.  the symbols are convenience.

    when i taught high school using key curriculums books…the students, the parents, everyone–even fellow teachers were shocked.  They would thumb through the book in shock and exclaim, but where is the math?  It is all words (an exaggeration).  I assured them it WAS MATH…real meaningful math!




    I want to come to your house and just listen to you talk about math all day long!! LOL!!  Wow, I feel inSPiReD to make thinking about math feel wonderful for my girls and not as the constant dread-filled time frame everyday.  I can’t wait to see what happens.  Thank you for this!! 


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