As a former Math teacher now homeschooling my own children, I’ve eagerly and thoroughly scoured Math curriculum offerings at homeschool conventions and through online homeschool group recommendations.
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I headed into my search armed with the following knowledge:
What I did not want:
- a traditional textbook
- and tests
I’ve taught from half a dozen variations on that theme, and the only one that I felt did any justice to the depth and wonder of Math was a very non-traditional, discovery-based curriculum (that unfortunately didn’t garner enough popularity to survive through more than one 4-year textbook cycle).
What I did want:
I wanted something that was built around hands-on manipulatives and provided kids many opportunities to discover how mathematical principles work, rather than just telling them answers to questions they had never asked for themselves.
I wanted a curriculum that would present concepts deeply so that kids would be able to easily extend their understanding to new situations, rather than just memorize algorithms.
And I hoped to find all this in a curriculum that respected the integrity of students and their parents by providing guided material to help progress through lessons, but not overemphasize busy work or tests.
The perfect Package
What we do need is a structure to help us present these topics in a logical order, guided lessons written by someone with a high-level view of Math and a deep knowledge of how the individual pieces fit into the whole picture, a supply kit of recommended manipulatives, and … as an added bonus … a complete set of games to help reinforce every concept.
It was a tall order, but I found it!
I found absolutely everything I was looking for (and nothing from my “not looking for” list) in RightStart Mathematics.
Benefits of RightStart Math:
- guided-discovery based lessons,
- hands-on manipulatives,
- focus on deep learning rather than rote memorization,
- unique and skill-focused games to support almost every lesson,
- use of songs and rhymes to help when memorization is called for (with days of the week or months of the year, for example),
- simple, easy-to-follow, short lessons that didn’t leave you scrambling to fill in explanations but could also easily springboard into deeper extension topics,
- very well-rounded approach that integrates many different topics into each level,
- and the delight with which my kids approach our Math lessons!
The best kind of Math education …
Here are a few of the most inspiring points the author makes:
- Only five percent of mathematics should be learned by rote; 95 percent should be understood.
- Understanding a new model is easier if you have made one yourself.
- The role of a teacher is to encourage thinking by answering questions, not giving answers. Once you give an answer, thinking usually stops.
- Putting thoughts into words helps the learning process.
- Informal mathematics should precede pencil and paper work.
I won’t risk a spoiler-alert by sharing the whole intro here, but I absolutely love her perspective on Math and the learning process as well as her expertise and passion that she’s poured into creating this curriculum.
The complete series currently goes up through Geometry … but I think they’re still developing more.
As we’ve worked our way through Level A, I have continued to love the presentation of the material and all the extension activities and games provided.
related article: 10 ways to make Math fun for kids
The Litmus Test of a good Math program
More importantly, so has my son! 🙂
His enthusiasm for Math and confidence in his own ability to make sense of it all is the best testimony to the effectiveness of this curriculum.
(Yes, it probably helps to have a Math teacher for a mom. But for real … these lessons are laid out so clearly that anyone could follow them and instill a love for learning and deep understanding in their kids as they work together through the lessons, no matter what personal weight they may carry from their own experience with Math in school.)
The only potential downside to this that I can see is that it does involve one-on-one time between the parent and child. I know that in big families, that time can be really hard to come by.
I can almost guarantee, however, that every hour invested up front in positive, personal Mathematical conversations and hands-on activities will save you 2 hours (5 hours? more??) of tears and frustration and wasted time trying to “unlearn” things that were not properly understood the first time around.
This program is also more expensive than a simple workbook-based curriculum. But the value you’ll get from all the elements provided in every lesson is, well, invaluable … and will save you money you won’t have to spend on a Math tutor later :).
You can read more about our own experience working through Level A here.
FREE MATH GAME
I’ve created several hands-on Math games and printable activities for my own kids as well these past few years. If you’d like to receive a free copy of this “Make 10 Math Game” and join my weekly newsletter to receive more Math printables and real-world learning tips, you can do so here:
Enjoy learning Math with your children!
Sandra, formerly a high-school math teacher (M.A.), now homeschools her two boys and shares her interactive, authentic learning activities, homeschooling stories, and passion for learning and teaching at R.E.A.L.-World Learners. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.
AyannaJune 3, 2019 at 4:15 pm
My girls are all hands-on learners, so this would be a great fit for them to expand their math knowledge at home.
SandraJune 5, 2019 at 9:24 pm
Yes! There are so many games and activities for hands-on learning! I think I was about 20 lessons into the first year before I even ran across a worksheet 🙂 (I think they have more as the levels advance, but I’ve been impressed that the worksheets are just used to reinforce concepts that kids learn through hands-on discovery.)
Ashley LeachJune 3, 2019 at 11:01 pm
We are really getting into math with my 5-year-old. This would be a great program for her. While I do not homeschool, I do supplement a lot of what she’s taught at school at home.
SandraJune 5, 2019 at 9:25 pm
This would be such a great program for supplementing Math in school because you’d be able to spend time with her playing the games and experimenting with the different manipulatives – making observations about how things work and extending ideas as she comes up with them :).
GinetteJune 4, 2019 at 12:07 pm
I too fortunately stumbled upon Right Start Math this year and I am LOVING it!! This is what I have wanted all along, but didn’t know about. I am one quarter of the way through Level A with my youngest son, and I am so glad he is gaining confidence and knowledge that my older two could have had. I plan on starting them on the program soon in Level D and F, but as was mentioned, it is fairly time consuming, so I started with the youngest first. As far as it being time-consuming, I am actually finding that I really enjoy the one-on-one time together, and seeing how his understanding grows is rewarding. I really like how the program builds such a solid foundation, even I am learning to see numbers in a different way. Recommended!
SandraJune 5, 2019 at 9:27 pm
I’m so happy to hear that and meet other Right Start people :)! I love your point about it being a bonding time with your son – i can hardly imagine a better way to spend quality family time together <3 :). It is truly amazing to hear young kids explain their understanding and reasoning behind Math as they learn it for the very first time.
lindsayJune 4, 2019 at 6:02 pm
Do you know how this program compares to MathUSee? Particularly how a student learning with this curriculum will do on standardized state testing? I’ve found that MathUSee needs supplementing with something more rigorous to help kids score well on standardized tests.
SandraJune 5, 2019 at 9:42 pm
Hi Lindsay – your question intrigues me so I’ve been doing some research :). I haven’t personally used MUS but I’ve heard a lot about it and from the research I’ve been doing, it seems to be in the same realm as RS with a focus on deep understanding through hands-on learning. From what I understand, MUS is cheaper and can be more independent, but does not have as many manipulatives or games. (If anyone knows otherwise, feel free to chime in here!) I’m not sure about how well it prepares them for standardized state testing … I know that RS (version 2) has been correlated to Common Core standards, but from what I’ve read about that in the forums, it just took a little bit of shifting content around to achieve that – they didn’t sacrifice their own standards or change their approach :). As a former teacher, I know that the goal behind a lot of the Common Core standards in Math was to get kids to develop a deep understanding and be able to communicate their thought process and extend the application of their knowledge to new situations – I’ll withhold personal opinions here about how effectively this is carried out through traditional schooling systems … 😉 but I will say that curriculums like RightStart are designed to meet all those goals and do it well.
That was a few rabbit trails away from your original question though … sorry for getting sidetracked! I’d be happy to do more research or talk through more ideas if want to continue the conversation. You can reach me here or through any of the links in my author bio at the end of the post above.
susie liberatoreJune 5, 2019 at 3:59 pm
WOW this is great I could totally use all of this, thank you.
SandraJune 5, 2019 at 9:28 pm
So glad to hear it! Thank you for taking a minute to reply!!
SashaJune 6, 2019 at 9:49 pm
I’ve used Right Start for two years and really like it. My son is on level C and my daughter will complete A next week. We used a different program when my son was in Kindergarten. He didn’t learn a lot and decided that he hated math. He still doesn’t like math, but he does’t hate it or cry about it (usually 😉 ). The lessons in level C I think are long though. So we’ve only completed half of them this year. I tried teaching them separately, but with a two year old and twin one year olds it was hard to find the time. When I teach them together I can ask the warm-up questions alternating between the two. Since the level A lessons aren’t as long, once my daughter is finished I can help my son. It is parent intensive though. I’ve considered switching to teaching textbooks, but I really like the Right Start approach. I taught first grade for five years and third grade for a year before my oldest was born so I’ve taught worksheet heavy programs before.
SandraJune 20, 2019 at 8:50 pm
You are amazing! Good work sticking with this program (or anything, really!) with a 2 year old and one year old twins on board!! Best of luck to you this coming school year! <3
MarlaJune 8, 2019 at 9:22 am
I have not tried this program because of price and having six kids. However, I have only heard great things about it. I am considering getting one level to help my child who struggles with math concepts. Although I use concept heavy programs she still needs everything reintroduced at least 3 times before she really gets it. Maybe this will be our 3rd option for the fractions/decimals/percents she is still struggling with…has anyone used a higher level of this…like the level that would come right before Pre-Algebra?
SandraJune 20, 2019 at 8:56 pm
I haven’t used that level yet so I can’t say for sure, but based on what I’ve seen for the Level A and the Geometry level, i imagine it would provide a solid foundation for deep understanding with thorough practice through hands-on manipulatives and games. I would also love to hear anyone’s specific experience though as well with fractions/decimals/percents in RightStart! I know as a high school Math teacher, I saw kids struggling with this topic more than almost anyything else because they had never developed a solid foundation in it. I hope you find something that works for her this year – I’m inspired by your tenacity to keep trying things until you find what works!!
LillyJune 9, 2019 at 12:12 pm
This looks so perfect for us. We are using Singapore math right now, and as soon as I pull out the textbook, she revolts. I like Singapore math but maybe it’s too regimented. Have you had any experience with Singapore versus Right Start? I plan on taking a break this summer by just playing games and doing activities in “Family Math” while re-evaluating our math curriculum. Thanks so much for the review. This gives me options!
SandraJune 20, 2019 at 8:59 pm
That sounds like such a good plan for the summer! 🙂 I haven’t done an in-depth comparison between the two programs, but from what I’ve seen and used of Singapore Math, I can say that it is a lot more worksheet based than RightStart Math is. Singapore Math is a good, solid program with good descriptions, but in my opinion, no worksheet can beat hands-on experience ;). Different things work at different times for different kids though :D. I hope you find what you need for a happy Math experience next year!!
PennyJune 10, 2019 at 4:13 pm
Great review and the program looks amazing!
SandraJune 20, 2019 at 9:00 pm
Thank you! 🙂
Jakki A GoffJuly 8, 2019 at 5:57 am
I read that you also reviewed The Good and The Beautiful Level K math. I have a child I will be homeschooling Kindergarten this year and I’m torn between RightStart and The Good and the Beautiful. My daughter is a kinesthetic learner who loves anything hands-on and colorful. Would you say the teaching methods are similar, different? Is there one you prefer over the other? I just need a good, honest opinion from another homeschool mom who has used both curriculums and are the same level. Most moms I talk to locally use only one math and I would appreciate your feedback since you have used both.
SandraJuly 23, 2019 at 2:36 pm
I’m sorry that I only just saw this now! I actually have not used the Good and the Beautiful Math program … I’m not sure where you read that but I’m sorry to cause confusion! I agree that it is very difficult to find someone who has actual experience with multiple Math programs, since each one is such an investment of time and money – I hope that you find a program that works great for your daughter!
Mrs.Momof9December 5, 2019 at 7:30 am
Could you tell me how much time it takes to teach a lesson? You mentioned that this is parent intensive, and sinceI have 4 kids who would need the program…. I’m wondering HOW time intensive!
GinetteDecember 5, 2019 at 1:10 pm
Of course, it depends on the lesson and level but I would say on average it would take 10-20 minutes a lesson (I’ve used levels A-E) plus the odd worsheet which are usually able to be completed independently. At the beginning it may take a little more time as you all get used to the program, and dawdlers could easily whittle 30 minutes if they are in the right mood?. With 4 students, you may want to break it up a little ( maybe 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon?) What I did with three kids is began the program with my youngest, and over the next month or two, started the other 2, it was not as overwhelming that way. Plus you’ll be more confident when you start the older ones, and you will understand the methods better. If you stick with it you’ll likely be glad you did. One note, I do skip certain repetetive things, to keep it from boring my student, though repetition can be great, you have to know what your student can handle.
SandraDecember 5, 2019 at 1:19 pm
Ginette’s answer below is great! (Thank you for sharing your experience managing it with multiples!) I would also add that you could try just getting the first level now and start it with your youngest to get the feel for it, then add in the other levels as you go, switching your older kids over to it later. They have great customer service and can help you figure out what level your kids would need – and if two of your kids are at a similar level, they could work together through a level? I started off with a level that was a bit on the “too easy” side but I really valued the mathematical thinking that RightStart math helps kids develop, so I wanted to go through it anyway to pick up valuable skills that will lay a good foundation once the math gets harder – so we’ve been “batching it” and going through several lessons in about an hour (as our schedule allows). I would say in general you could get through a lesson in the beginning levels within 10-15 minutes – but it could be longer if you want to extend some of the games or activities or have deeper mathematical conversations about why things work. I hope that helps a bit?
Kamila JFebruary 23, 2021 at 9:23 am
You wrote recommendations on both RightStart and Horizons math. Do you prefer one over the other and if so why? Having a hard time deciding.
TERRYNFebruary 23, 2021 at 9:29 am
Hi! I personally use Horizons until 3rd grade and then switch to Teaching Textbooks (I have reviewed them too). This is a guest review. What ages are you looking for? I have used Horizons for about 11 years now, with multiple children.