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trailmom's Avatar trailmom 08:55 PM 03-23-2012


I'm looking for opinions about RS Math, wondering what you appreciate about it if you use it.

Also, what level would you suggest for a new 8 year old that isn't too strong in math.

Thank you for any thoughts!

tankgirl73's Avatar tankgirl73 10:33 PM 03-23-2012

I'm a huge RS advocate.  :)  We came to it when my son was 11 and had finished a grade 6 math program but obviously had no real retention.  We went through the Transitions lessons then level E. He finished that all up and finally had some comprehension!  


He's now 13 and doing 'normal' level math of pre-algebra, and he's also doing the RightStart Geometry level.  


I fell such in love with the program that I knew I would use it with my daughter when she was old enough.  She started level A when she was 3.5yo -- she's "mathy" and was asking for it, though we went VERY slowly, just a lesson once in awhile when she felt like it.  She's now almost 5.5yo and is halfway through level B.  She loves it, we love it, she *gets* it.


What I love about it is the strong foundation in real numeracy, real mathematical thinking, not rote algorithms.  The abacus and how it's used is fantastic.  The games are the primary method of 'practice' and they are central to the program (a common mistake when parents say "this doesn't seem to be working for us" is that they're not doing the games enough).  The mental math skills are excellent.  


For instance, the fundamental emphasis on grouping in 5's.  They learn from the very beginning that "8 is five and three".  Later on, when it's time to add, say, 8 + 6, they don't have to 'count on' or anything like that.  8 is 5 and 3, 6 is 5 and 1, together that makes 5 and 5, and 3 and 1.  Boom, that's 14.  They can visualize that with the abacus in their mind.  We're not even at the point in the program where we learn that trick (though we're close), and I've used that strategy when my daughter asked me 8 plus 6 on her own.  And she GETS it.  


Along with the 'fives' strategy, they also learn 'splitting 10' early on.  The card games for that skill are some of the most popular in our house.  I even posted a video on youtube of my daughter playing splitting tens memory:




The gist here is that they instantly know that if you have a 6 and you want to make 10, you need 4 more... and all the other combinations.  This is coming in very handy with the higher mental math strategies like the 9's strategy.  9 is almost 10.  So if you have 27 and you want to add 9, you move 1 from the 27 to the 9, and you have 26 and 10 --- 36.  She'll also use it if asked to add 7+4.  She'll say "7 and 3 is 10, so 7 and 4 is 11".


It's also phenomenal for understanding place value.  By using 'math language' instead of traditional english number terms, for the first while, they really know that "thirty plus fifty" is just as easy as 3 plus 5.  3-ten plus 5-ten is 8-ten, the same as 3 apples plus 5 apples is 8 apples.  


Here's another vid of my daughter doing 4-digit addition with carrying -- or 'trading' -- using the manipulatives.  She thought this was amazingly fun.  




There are other great elements of later levels as well, I'm mentioning these because we're in the middle of them right now.  :)


If your 8yo doesn't have much math experience yet, then you'd probably start with level B.  That's the real introductory level -- roughly equivalent to grade 1 (though they use a totally different scope and sequence).  Level A is like a level for kids who would like to do some math but aren't old enough for level B (the level now called "B" was the original first level, "A" was added later).  Starting at level C or above means going through the "Transitions" level first, to learn the "Right Start way" -- math language, working with the abacus, etc.  But if they're not strong in math yet, you might as well just start with B.  You can always move quickly through some lessons if they're a little too easy at first.  

trailmom's Avatar trailmom 07:31 PM 03-24-2012

Heather, I feel like I "struck oil" when receiving your response, thank you so very much for sharing in such detail.

I also very much enjoyed seeing your super cute 4 year-old in action with the math games, she is such a cutie!

I believe, as you mentioned, that Level B would be a good level to go with.  My daughter doesn't seem to understand the "why" behind some of the math problems and I believe she needs to sort of back-up a bit and see the big picture as related to problem solving.  Plus, as you mentioned, we could move through it quickly if needed.

Thanks again for offering your time so kindly, you have been a great help!

AllyRae's Avatar AllyRae 12:25 PM 03-25-2012

We use Rightstart as well.  It is very Montessori-inspired and uses manipulatives a lot, which is perfect for my 8 1/2 year old.  He has asperger's and dyslexia and was very behind in math (before we pulled him out of school, he was over 2 years behind...which is a HUGE deal considering he was a FIRST GRADER).  We used Rightstart for 2nd grade and he's now working at or slightly below grade level in math (so he made almost 3 years of progress in just a year!)  I'm going to be starting it with my 5 year old for Kindergarten in June too. :)

trailmom's Avatar trailmom 10:09 PM 03-27-2012

Thanks very much, AllyRae!

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