Wednesday, October 9, 2013

RightStart and our family!

Right Start Manipulatives

We are starting our 3rd year of using the RightStart Math program, and I thought I'd take a moment to share about our experiences with it so far.

I guess I should start by saying we are using Edition 1.  This is because - well - that was all that was available when we started!  I have liked the looks of the sample pages of Edition 2, and I do sort-of wish I could switch - but it doesn't make sense.  First Edition 2 isn't ready for the levels Delta and Echo are using - and at this point there is no way to switch editions past the start of Level B.  I would think at some point RightStart will need to create Edition 2 Transition lessons for people moving from a totally different program - but that is in the future.   And as we own the lessons for Edition 1, it wouldn't make sense to pay for Edition 2 lessons for the younger students.  Besides, edition 1 has been working well for us.

All that said - let's move on.  I think it makes sense to do this by level.

Level A
I have completed this level last year with Foxtrot.  (Delta and Echo moved from the MEP math program, and never did Level A.)

In Edition 1, Level A is designed so that each lesson is to be broken up between 2 days.  There is generally a couple of different topics.  However Foxtrot seemed to generally want to do the entire lesson. We didn't do it every day - and even so we completed this level before the end of the year, and started Level B.  Even though Foxtrot knows the regular way to deal with numbers > 10, she didn't object to the 5-ten way of describing numbers.  She seems to have a good grasp of numbers and basic addition.   We were able to skip about 15 of the lessons in Level B (the ones marked with an '*' in the Table of Contents), and even so, level B seemed to start out like a review.  [The change from Level A to Level B in the 2nd Edition seems to be handled so much better - in the sample it looks like the teacher/parent evaluates the student's skills from Level A to determine where to start in Level B.]

Foxtrot making 100 with tiles.  Golf playing with tiles.

Level B
I completed Level B with Delta and Echo 2 years ago, and am up to Lesson 40 with Foxtrot.   Delta and Echo have been taught together, as when we changed math programs, they were evaluated to start at the same level.

Delta and Echo finished Level B in a year with no great difficulties that I remember.  We didn't do the practice sheets - and it didn't seem to be a problem then.... but I think that ended up being a problem later in Level C.  Foxtrot is doing the practice sheets.   With doing Level B together, besides having 2 abacuses, I found it important to have 2 sets of base-10 cards (which we were lucky to have - we were even more lucky as we had been given one set that was older, so one set was printed with blue - and the other set was printed with black.)  I think you would also want 2 sets of place value cards.  We only had 1 set, and so I printed a paper-set for the other child (We alternated who had the real set and who had paper.)  The RightStart set was a LOT easier to work with!

I really like how things worked with RightStart.  Addition was taught with various strategies to help the child think about what everything means.  I think my kids have a pretty good concept of place-value up to the thousands.  I find that although the topics do switch every so often - that the topics do support each other.  For instance, (and I don't remember if this was level A or level B), that numbers up to 10 are worked with, focusing on grouping with 5's... and then the topic switches to money - learning pennies, nickels, and dimes - and all the work there reinforces working with numbers in groups of 5's and 10's.   In level B there is addition up to 4 digit of numbers - and then things move into calendars.  But one exercise I remember has the child adding up all the number of days in each month to determine the number of days in a year.  So this not only reinforced the information they learned about calendars, but also gave a problem that involved large numbers and a reason to add.   I also found the topic often switches right when my kids seem to need a break on the current topic.  I find it great how it works out.

In the 1st edition there is a "wall" around lesson 68 where students often find things suddenly a lot more difficult.  It is common to take time here to review and play games.  I do think Delta and Echo had a bit of "fun" at that point, but I don't remember a significant problem.  There is a post on the Yahoo group with some suggestions on how to break down the skills taught at about lesson 68 to reduce the wall.  I will see if they are needed when Foxtrot (and eventually Golf) get there.

Level C
I worked on Level C with Delta and Echo last year... up to about lesson 100ish.  We are continuing with the level this year.

It had seemed as last year progressed that we might be able to finish Level C in a year.  From being on the RightStart Yahoo group, I knew that it was very common for Level C to take from 1.5 years to 2 years to complete.  Well, it varies.   Some people take longer in Level B.  Some take longer in Level D.  But it seems quite common for Levels B, C, & D to take 4 years total... with the extra time being spent in some level or another.  (Note that Edition 2 now has an extra level - levels A-F instead of levels A-E as preparation for the Geometry program dubbed Level G).  As time went on - it became obvious that we would NOT complete level C in a year after all.  We hit another 'wall' at about lesson 90 with the subtraction.  Actually, Delta and Echo seemed to struggle right when the 4 digit subtraction was introduced, and things didn't improve.  We took a break to practice, and struggled through a few more lessons when I figured it was time to just take a break for a while and focus on games and practice sheets......

Because yes - we didn't do practice sheets all throughout.  And honestly we didn't play enough games.  And when we hit the "wall" - it suddenly seemed like everything they ever learned about math was leaking out of their head.  Suddenly they couldn't seem to get simple addition questions right!  And I think that not doing the daily practice sheet was a part of the problem.

So during the summer, we went back to basics.  I used the "Acitvities for the AlAbacus" book (which we already owned) to review addition strategies - and I used Level B, then Level C practice sheets to review and practice.  We also played math games many days - starting at the start of the Addition section (and start of the Number Sense section for Foxtrot) and working our way forward.  The idea was to do Addition during July and Subtraction during August - but we didn't do much in August due to my health.

So, this year we just started up where we left off in Level C - right where multiplication is really starting to take off.  I already knew that Level D reviews subtraction, so I figured that we would just keep working on, and not worrying too much about the subtraction.  I did quickly review the 4 digit subtraction with and without an abacus as each lesson has 1 problem with that for practice.  It seemed to come easier.  We just did lesson 110 today, which has a simple-subtraction fact practice...  Delta got all 50 right!  Echo got 47 right... 1 question she added, and 1 question she multiplied, and 1 she just got wrong.  So the issues with subtraction seem to have disappeared!

It looks like Combinations of items, and Area calculations are coming up - to the kids it looks like a change in topic... to me I see that it is going into different reasons to use multiplication.

Level D (and E)
I do already own the Level D teacher's manual (we don't have the worksheets yet) and it looks interesting.  It looks like there will be a lot of review - but I think it is to really cement the concepts learned in Level C.  I am not sure if there are daily practice sheets or not - if not, we will continue to use the ones from Level C for quite some time.  I am looking forward to the kids moving forward.  I expect we will start Level D about 1/2 the way through this year, and have it continue to next year.

Golf and math
I haven't started Golf in RightStart yet.  She is still only 3.  She does enjoy singing "Yellow is the Sun".

Multiple Kids in RightStart
Because RightStart math does require the parent to TEACH each lesson - it can be a bit teacher intensive when you have multiple kids.  I am lucky in one way that Delta and Echo are at the same point in math.  If at some point that isn't working for either one, I will separate them - but at this time it is working.  Because Level C does have 2 versions of each review lesson, I select a different one for each of them.  (When they were struggling and we did some practice and then did the review again - I just had them do whichever they had not yet done.  I dated them so we knew which was the 2nd attempt.)

One piece of advice that I've used (but not always) to limit the time I, as a teacher,  spend on math is to use a timer and a set amount of time for math.  For level C I use 30 minutes.  For level B - I use either 20 or 30 minutes (depending on the ability of my student to focus for that time.)  For level A I would use from 10-20 minutes based on student ability.

So - I set the timer as we start the lesson.  If the timer goes off and there is more than a minute or so left in the lesson - we pack it up for the day and continue where we left off the next day.  OR... if we finish the lesson and there is more than a minute or so left on the timer - we play a game or two to fill the time.     This, of course, is easier if you aren't in the mindset of having to finish a level each year....

Oh - and the practice sheets aren't done during "warm-up" time as suggested in the manual.... I have the kids do them on their own at a different time.

I think it is VERY important to use a timer in Level C on the review lessons....  and then do the suggested games if there is time left over.  And if there isn't any time left over, well - probably the next lesson should be a game day so they get more practice in to help speed them up!

I am trying to do a games day each Friday...  (Friday tends to be a bit different in each subject.)  But - it seems like something has happened most Friday's so far this year...

And my opinion after 2 whole years?  WE LOVE RIGHTSTART!


  1. Thank you for sharing your experience with RightStart. I have read many of your comments on the SCM forum. We enjoy RightStart too. I do not use level A. We start with level B at grade 1. I use some Teddy Bear math and math games before that. Much of the first part of Level B is a repeat of concepts learned in level A, so we just take it slower if needed. Right now I have a grade 1 in level B lesson 23 and a grade 4 in level C lesson 84. We have been alternating a day of lessons/worksheet and a day of games. They do practice sheets daily on their own time, but I do not time their speed. On day 5 of each week, both kids work together with Pattern Blocks and a teachers book I use to help me guide their learning through creative play. That makes sense to think of completing the three levels B - D in four years! Of course that will vary some with each child. Thanks, Wings2fly

  2. I am so thankful that I found your blog via a comment you made on a SCM forum regarding RS. It was so reassuring to hear that others don't necessarily complete a whole level each year, and still manage to get to Algebra by 9th grade. I am dragging my 6yo through level B and have recently decided to purchase the level A books (since we only started RS this year) in hopes that it will be a smoother year for him. Thanks for helping me to remember that it's okay to go slower through math so the concepts become more concrete. I truly believe there will be fewer struggles with math down the road.

    1. I'm glad my post was helpful to you. Yes, it is ok to go slower, there is lots of time.

  3. This is an old post, but I'm really interested in Rightstart Math after reading it -- were you able to buy it in Canada?

    1. Yes, you can get it in Canada. I have mostly gotten stuff used, but I have bought a few things directly from RightStart as well. Shipping is more of course... but I have also bought when there was a homeschool convention and that gave free shipping. Exchange rate is horrible right now though.

      We are still using RightStart - Delta is in a combined Level G and E, Echo is using Level E, Foxtrot is in Level D, and Golf is in Level B.