It’s quite a point of anxiety for most people. Families are paralyzed by the curriculum choices. Some parents find they need to switch when one curriculum isn’t working-only to find they don’t care for the replacement option either. Most math curricula can be quite pricey-especially the ones that include games and manipulatives. Not only is it an investment into our child’s future, it is an investment financially as well.
I was certainly in the former group. I was so scared of choosing ‘the wrong’ curriculum, that I simply chose none at all. I worked with my son through manipulatives, games, worksheets & workbooks until I felt his foundation was strong. But, eventually, my son outgrew our methods and needed to move onto more challenging work in a structured way. Luckily for me, he is proficient at math and typically understands it quickly. He is also outspoken and can tell me what he likes and doesn’t like when it comes to choosing a resource. For him, we finally settled on Singapore-though I’d hardly call it ‘settling’.
This has been a wonderful choice and I’m here to tell you all the reasons why! That’s not to say it will be the best choice for your children, but hopefully on some level, you might gain some insight to make the best choice if you find yourself at a crossroads in this territory.
I was inundated with so many options and so many mothers praising the choice they made. But I wasn’t ready to commit to investing in a math curriculum for my son until I found Singapore. This seemed like the best choice for my son who loves independent, straight-forward work, and who also prefers bookwork. Usually, he will opt for a worksheet over a flowery more gentle way of learning. Singapore is challenging, the numbered levels do not necessarily correspond directly to ‘grade levels’. I liked this because at the time of my search, I found my son was ‘in between’ grade levels. Most 2nd grade curriculum contained information he had already mastered, and 3rd grade levels introduced subjects too advanced for him. Where was the middle-ground? Where was the resource that would bridge the gap between double-digit addition and fractions/multiplication?
I found it in Singapore.
What I love most about Singapore is that we can go at our own pace. There is a textbook and workbook with corresponding lessons. This offers an opportunity to introduce a new skill, and then review and practice to master it. The lessons are fairly short with less writing and ‘drills’ than other workbooks. Included in each lesson are visuals to help explain the process. These are, of course, a substitute to manipulatives, which my son is not a fan of, and allow him to see the steps taken to complete each solution.
In addition, each lesson within a chapter simply adds an extra element to the process, making it slightly more challenging or expanding on the core skill. This allows for review and gentle graduation to more complex problems without burdening the child or the parent. Each numbered level book also has two parts: an A and B. We are almost halfway through the school year and a bit more than halfway through the A textbook and A workbook. This means that we are progressing steadily and should fulfill both the A and B textbooks and workbooks for each grade within our school year time frame.
Our normal schedule is to introduce a new lesson chapter on Mondays, then complete the corresponding workbooks sections on Tuesday and Wednesday. We move onto the next lesson chapter on Thursday and complete the final workbook section on Friday. In this way, we cover two lessons per week but spread out in a way that allow plenty of time and a gentle pace for review and deep understanding.
Simply Charlotte Mason Elementary Arithmetic
My daughter is a completely different type of learner. Since she was beginning her ‘Kindergarten’ year of learning at home this past August, and because she is not as fluent (or interested) in the language of math, I wanted to something gentle and simple to start her off strong. It was important to me to choose one method of learning and applying math to stick to in order to build a strong foundation with her. I was in search of a resource that was quick, minimal, and wouldn’t cause her to shy away from learning. It needed to speak to her and offer her the skills to grow in an enjoyable environment. She doesn’t care as much for bookwork and is a spatial learner. The Elementary Arithmetic Book 1 was just the ticket!
I can’t even describe how gentle and slow this book is. The first chapter literally begins with the number 1. Although my daughter could already count to 20 and understood simple math facts through games, I chose to begin with the very first lesson so she could become accustomed to the structure and verbiage in the book.
You can spend one week on each number, but we chose to spend two days instead because numbers 1-20 were partially review for her. I read to her from the book usually splitting each lesson into two days. This book focuses on read aloud, not in the sense of stories, but more in the way of relatable word problems. When I was a child in public schools, we started with math drills and didn’t move onto word problems until middle elementary school grades. I love that Elementary Arithmetic introduces word problems right out of the gate because this allows spatial thinkers to assign values to everyday objects. This process makes the math come to life and shows a child how it is applicable. There is deeper meaning to what they are learning.
Each day, my daughter chooses her manipulative of choice. Sometimes she uses colorful pom poms, buttons, wooden mushrooms, number tiles, or montessori counting sticks (especially useful when you get to bundling in groups of ten). The freedom to use what we want to solve the problems has been such a reward and added bonus of this curriculum.
I have also found that through me reading aloud, and her simply expressing the solution in the form of manipulatives, it has actually strengthened her mental math abilities. She is able to solve simple problems quicker in her head than my son could at her age.
Of course, you as the parent have complete freedom. We have chosen to pause after the first 20 lessons to review numbers 1-20 in a myriad of ways. We keep a gridded notebook where my daughter has been writing her numbers each time we introduce a new one. But now, we can explore what she’s learned and find what we need to spend extra time on. Each day, I write a serious of 16-18 math problems in her book and ask her to solve them. Luckily for me, she is very interested in this as it is ‘big girl math’ like her brother. She can use her manipulatives to find the answer, but more often than not, she finds the pattern and uses mental math to come to the solution. We are reviewing skip counting along the way, evens and odds, as well as math facts through displaying multiple ways of achieving the same sum.
This Simply Charlotte Mason Elementary Arithmetic Book 1 covers numbers up to 100, so we will be using this for more than one year. It is also not specifically associated with a ‘grade’ by rather an age range and a way of introducing and learning math. We plan to purchase the 2nd Book in 1-2 years because the methodology in this resource is wonderful for an energetic child who does not care to sit still and write endlessly.
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions. Feel free to share your child’s favorite math program as well!