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For her fourth grade math class, Satori’s homework involved making a math puzzle that she would put on the wall for the other students to solve. She had some ideas, but wanted my help “making it creative”. Last week I helped her write a poem to put on the wall in a creative way, so I guess she figured I’d make this project look cool too. Although I really shouldn’t help so much with her homework in the future, I couldn’t resist.

We have her a mystery five digit number. In between the purple lines are clues to fill in all the digits. The creative touches to our number puzzle include magnetic numbers, we included just the five digits of her final number, but the person doing the puzzle would have to snap them in place. We used real coins as well as a real foam polygon shape. The picture is Satori and her teacher I took on the first day.

Number Puzzle

 Who can guess the Number Puzzle?!

Shortly after starting Singapore Math just under two weeks ago, I realized we had better go back to 1A to get the basics of subtraction and various thinking strategies that were introduced in the first half. For subtraction, 1A introduces two methods of subtracting: taking away and part-whole. In 1B, we learned the comparison method of subtracting. We had not covered subtraction with RightStart, and I really wanted to give Satori a solid foundation starting Singapore. Even though I knew I could teach Satori the taking away and part-whole methods, we were still missing some of the mental math strategy basics that Singapore is so great at. So I ordered 1A Home Instructor’s Guide, Textbook, and Extra Practice (which covers both 1A/1B).

Satori got a 90% on her 1A placement test, but there were just some mental math strategies I wanted to go over. I think it will take us one week (the whole 7 days) to cover 1A at an accelerated pace. As of today, we’re already well over halfway through the book. Satori has been very eager to do math, and both of us are enjoying our Singapore math time, so we have been spending an entire hour per day on math this week! We’ve never spent an hour at math. Here’s what we’ve learned this week.

  • Make 10: Split one of the numbers up in order to make a ten with the other number
  • Subtract From the ten: To subtract ones from a ten and ones where there are not enough ones, subtract the ones from the tens and add that result to the ones

To introduce the topic, we did a lot of concrete, hands-on work to demonstrate how it works. We used 10-frames, linking cubes, and here we pulled out our MUS blocks. We haven’t played with our MUS blocks in almost two years! Satori totally forgot she ever used them.

Here we are solving for 14-8. We have a ten rod (1-ten) and 4 singles (4-ones) to represent 14.

Since the ones we are subtracting (8) is greater than the ones being subtracted (4), we will be using the following strategy.  In the pink marker, you see we broke the 14 up into 10 and 4 as a number bond. We then subtract the 8 from the ten, which is two, so we substitute 2 blocks for our previous 10.

Now we’re left with 2 blocks and 4 blocks, giving us a total of 6. (orange marker)

We’ve been working on such problems, including 20 minus 4, where we break the 20 up into two 10’s and subtract the 4 from one of them, and then adding that number to the other 10, to make it easier to think of these larger problems in our head. We’re also using the 1A Mental Math drills, some of which are even more complicated than 1B. We’re also working in the Singapore Extra Practice book, Satori just loves her new math workbooks. She doesn’t doodle like she used to in her Math Mammoth worksheets. She actually asks to work in her Singapore books. By the weekend, I think she’ll have finished the entire Singapore Extra Practice book for the 1A problems.

Here Satori tells us what she’s learned yesterday.

Next week we’ll have finished Singapore 1A, and then we can resume at a normal pace of 1B. Who knows, maybe we’ll finish that quickly too? She’s really surprising me with her new fascination with math. She’s already planning Daddy’s lessons this weekend on showing him how to subtract. 🙂 Monday we were at the car shop for an hour, and all she wanted to do was Singapore-style math problems. She begged to go over multiplication (she has a strange preoccupation with learning her times tables already). Instead of writing stories in her journals, she’s including math problems as well. Maybe this kid will turn out to be more “mathy” than I thought she was…

I honestly think this all started once I started watching my Khan Academy videos to re-educate myself. I’m in Algebra 1 now, and she listens to it now and then. I guess it’s made me a great role model, having a mother so excited about math. Then we get a shiny new math curriculum that is fun and challenging that gives us the ability to go through it at an accelerated pace. It’s all about MATH in the Satori household this week!

As I mentioned a few days ago, we are switching our primary math program to Singapore Math 1B. We very happily used RightStart, but mom was ready for a change. Before we decided on their 1B level, I gave Satori their placement tests. She scored 90% on 1A (first part of Grade 1). We didn’t even attempt 1B (second part of Grade 1), because there was so much we haven’t covered yet halfway through RightStart B (subtraction, multiplication…) So last week I ordered 1B and we started Sunday.

Singapore Primary Mathematics 1B

At first I found it confusing what exactly to order. There’s a gazillion different books, supplementary materials, manipulatives, etc… For Primary Mathematics (grade 1-6), you first have to choose between US and Standards version. Since the program is from Singapore, you might think you’d need US, but both versions use customary U.S. measurement and metric measurements. I suggest the Standards edition (2008), it is the same as the U.S. edition (2003), but with a different sequence of topics, all textbooks in color, additions on several topics, additional sections on mental math, additional problems. They even say on their website that Standards is a little more challenging than U.S., due to the additional topics. I’m all for a more rigorous math program!

Thanks to several folks on the WTM forums, I decided to get the Home Instructor’s Manual (HIG). I almost didn’t, but am so relieved I did. You do not need the Teacher’s Guide (meant for classroom instruction). Some families use just the Singapore Textbook and Workbook (some just the text!), but they miss the crucial aspects of what makes Singapore Math “Singapore”. Unless you are very familiar with Asian math and are comfortable coming up with examples on your own, the HIG is necessary. It not only holds my hand telling me how to teach the lesson, but also breaks the lessons up into easy chunks and tells me what Textbook and Workbook pages to do along with the lesson (complete with answers). The HIG provides the concrete introduction, provides background notes, and emphasizes where concepts are taught differently than most US texts. The HIG gives suggestions and mental math practice on how to memorize math facts.

Singapore Math consists of three parts. Primary Mathematics follows a concrete to pictorial to abstract sequence of instruction.

  1. Concrete introduction to the concept – You, as the teacher teach the lesson using the HIG as a guide and different manipulatives
  2. Followed by pictorial representation – textbook supplies colorful pictures and abstract aspects
  3. Independent practice and review – with the workbook(s)

I have bumped up our usual 20 minute math session to 30 minutes now. So far, we’ve done Singapore Math 4 days and it’s going great. I start by glancing at the HIG to see how to introduce the day’s topic.  After a short review of 1A, right away we were learning subtraction for the first time, so I used math counters and a whiteboard. This is our second subtraction lesson and it had Satori pair up the counters and write the subtraction equation.

We did this a few more times and then moved to the textbook. Satori is excited by the cute, colorful pictures. We haven’t had this in any math program we’ve used so far. Here, we’re using transparent counters to help with subtraction. She loves them.

Finally, we take out the workbook. It isn’t the same exercises over and over, so I doubt Satori will get bored. Usually, each lesson will have her do 2-4 pages, which may have just a couple exercises on each page.

This week the HIG said we should have all our simple addition/subtraction facts memorized by Unit 3. (I think this is Unit 13 in 1B.) In the back of the HIG, they have Mental Math exercises. Satori already has her addition facts memorized, so we’ll be working on subtraction facts. Basically, we go through one column a day, and she orally tells me the answer. We do this quite quickly.

Some children may need more practice than just what the above offers, so there are extra books. In the HIG’s Scheme or Work pages in the beginning of the book, they provide page numbers for Extra Practice Standards Edition book 1 (covers both 1A/1B) and Tests (1A and 1B are separate). I don’t intend to use these extras, but we’ll see as we go. Instead, we’ll use the more advanced supplements…

One of the great things about the Singapore program is their extra books on Challenging Word Problems (CWP) and Intensive Practice (IP). Even before I decided upon using Singapore, I had purchased CWP based on so many people loving them. Even Math Mammoth encourages using Singapore Math’s CWP book. The Intensive Practice books are great and some people use them as a review. I purchased both 1A and 1B (right now they only come in U.S. Edition, but Standards will be coming), and we plan to use these if we finish our main math lesson early and we’ll use the remaining time doing pages from Intensive Practice and CWP. Today we did 5 pages out of IP 1A. The exercises were extremely engaging and several are fun puzzles.

Math is fun!

So this was just our first week with Singapore, but here are our thoughts. Mom loves them because they’re actually fun and easy to teach, yet I know they’re extremely effective at teaching my daughter great math. It is a program I can teach every single day without getting frustrated or bored. Satori was excited the first day to start her “colorful” math. The second day she actually started the day bringing me all the Singapore books and begged to do math. The third day she said “I love this book!” after working from her Intensive Practice book. The fourth day (today) I asked her if she liked her new Singapore Math and she yelled “I LOVE IT!”

She’s excited to learn several things that Singapore is teaching her right away. She can’t wait to get into multiplication. She noticed multiplication as I was watching my Khan Academy videos so she knows kinda what it’s about already. She can’t wait to get into graphing, which she noticed is covered in the next lesson.

I am happy that it looks like we’ve found a math program to take us all the way through high school. I’m glad it’s an Asian math program, and will continue with the great foundation RightStart gave us with doing mental math. All the different books (if you buy everything for one year) might be a lot to handle, but I think it will be okay. One thing I realized after looking through all of 1B carefully, is that we missed the extremely important “regrouping” concepts in 1A. Regrouping is thinking of an addition problem like 8+7 in terms of giving 2 to the 8 to make it a 10, and then ending up with 10+5 instead. For that reason, I did end up purchasing the 1A HIG and textbook so we can learn those lessons.

We will be switching to Singapore Primary Mathematics 1B this week and in planning the lessons, I started organizing our math manipulatives. Then I went on to clean and organize the whole Learning Loft. This includes our Math Manipulative Closet which I don’t think I ever mentioned it before. I’ve gotten a few emails asking where I store/organize everything, so hopefully this will help others who are looking for ideas.

The narrow closet is just off our loft area. It works perfectly to hide all our manipulatives. Since I’ve entertained using quite a handful of math programs, I ended up with lots of math manipulatives, starting with our MUS blocks. I admit that I’m a helpless addict to this kind of stuff. In this closet, I try to keep the supplies Satori might want to take out to play with on her own on the lower shelves that she can reach. She just loves playing with her math manipulatives.

The lowest shelf holds our MUS blocks, ManipuLite Pattern Blocks and Color Cubes, Geometric foam solids, Math Links, Linking Cubes, 1″ wooden blocks, Cuisenaire Rods, Math dice games, Place Value Kit, 1″ plastic square tiles and a few other various counting items like shiny rocks and beads. (To see any photo larger, just click on it.)

Next shelf holds more manipulatives and some logic games. We’ve got Tangoes Tanagrams, Large Rubber Vehicle Counters, smaller Kid and Wild Animal counters, transparent disc counters, plastic coins, tanagram shapes, blue and multicolor centimeter cubes, Unifix cubes and disc counters. We’ve got a few logic games up here, but we keep some in our game closet downstairs. Here you’ll find Mighty Mind, Logic Links, Block Buddies, Rory’s Story Cubes, Hundred Mat, and magnetic fractions. You can see I went wild with the labeler!

On the floor rest our math balances and scales, time clock and long pointy thingies like yard sticks, big thermometer, and a pointer.

Top shelf holds science and social studies stuff: Microscope and slides, Animal flashcards, timelines, Magnet kit, Little Passports suitcase… The shelf below it holds workbooks we’ll be using very soon. I’m entertaining moving ALL our math and logic games and storing them on the second shelf, but I’m not sure there would be enough room.

Things we use on a daily basis are taken out of the closet and stored on the bottom shelf of a small bookcase we have in the middle of our Learning Loft. The red tote holds our math manipulatives and math cards so we can easily take it all out while we do math. The abacuses we use all the time are also within convenient reach. I’ve decided to store our Singapore math books down here too as they are shorter than our normal binders and workbooks that we store elsewhere. We put a children’s dictionary here too, Satori uses it often. A new manipulative we’ll be using soon are the Unifix and linking cubes.

I’ve known about the free math resource – Khan Academy for a few years now, but just this month I checked it out again. Right away I noticed the tagline said over 38 million lessons delivered, and each time I refreshed the page, that number was updated. Today, the site hit over 40 million lessons. A few million lessons served in just a few weeks, wow!

This is an ASTOUNDING, AMAZING, ASTONISHING resource of 2000+ 10-minute (give-or-take) videos, mostly on math, but also on science and much more! They are easy to learn from and did I mention free?

The thing that caught my attention this month was that you can now login with your Google or Facebook ID and it will track your participation with Energy Points. You can earn points and badges from watching videos and doing your exercises.

I went through all the easiest Arithmetic videos and exercises and now almost done with Pre-Algebra. I will for sure be using this as a math and science supplement for Satori!

I could take all my own screenshots to show you, but it’s best if you just watch through his explanation video. I’m not sure this YouTube video will fit within my blog, if it doesn’t all show, just head here:

Khan Academy Exercise Software Video demonstration

Bill Gates is a huge fan – he uses Khan Academy for himself and his children. Khan Academy was also one of the first winners of the Google $10 million dollar award for Project 10^100, a global search for ideas that would “help the world the most”. What did Sal do with his $2 million from that? He turned right around and put that toward translating his videos into other languages, so even more of the world could benefit from his videos. Sal now works on Khan Academy full-time and has added a staff of six.

No matter if you homeschool, afterschool, or don’t even have children, you can use Khan Academy for yourself and/or your children to get up to speed on math. Since I’ve been watching these videos, I’ve become very psyched about math. I think you’ll see a big math focus in our household this spring.

Salman Khan is my hero!

This summer we are going to be adding a new math supplement – MEP math! RightStart is fine on its own, but I couldn’t resist peeking into this last week and it looks like it will be a great complement to RS. MEP is a free online math program covering over nine years of math. Several homeschool parents who I respect their curriculum choices all say they love this program, and most use it as a supplement to either RightStart, Singapore, or Miquon (some may use it as a stand-alone).

Satori and I just did the first 7 lessons in 30 minutes tonight out of Year 1A. I can her see zooming through 1A this summer and then slowing down in 1B. So far it was a fresh perspective and Satori loved it. Now we have two fun and effective math programs!

I must admit I spent the entire weekend printing out all the lessons and worksheets and then placed them in cool binders. I’ll give a more thorough review soon.

I know with the co-op there is a big rush to buy RightStart Math this month, and some people have been asking in the homeschool forums and a few emails to me whether they need to get all the manipulatives. The most important manipulative you’ll need is the special AL Abacus. A normal abacus won’t do unless it has the special coloring of 5 beads one color, 5 beads another color and then switching at 50 beads. You’ll want the math card games, but the DVD and manual aren’t necessary for Level A. As for the rest, some households just might have the rest of the manipulatives. If not, you’ll be happy with the normal Level A Starter Kit. (We’ve only done Level A so far, so I can’t answer for other levels.)

STARTER KIT OR DELUXE STARTER KIT?

A year ago I purchased RightStart math and only got their Level A Starter Kit ($115 at the time), as I couldn’t afford $200 for their Deluxe Starter Kit. Since the Deluxe version is $80 more, I just wanted to assure people that you don’t need to get that, not for Level A. I see their Deluxe kit only got 2.5 stars out of 5 on their own website, although it doesn’t show any review comments. Maybe it’s because other people realize the extra manipulatives aren’t totally needed right away. Here’s the extra 8 things you get.

As mentioned before, you don’t really need the Card Games book (or you can get separately when you’re ready). Most households will have a calculators well as a dry erase board/pen. You can use real coins or may already have plastic ones  on hand, either way, you don’t need the coins right away.

One of the “deluxe” manipulatives is their math balance, which looks pretty neat. However, it is NOT needed for Level A if you already have some sort of scale at home. We just did the only RightStart A lesson that involved a scale today. It was way easier for us to use our simple balance we already had. If you use theirs, you have to add your own home-made pans so you can weigh things – not something I wanted to do. Here’s the scale we used, the Learning Resources Pan Balance Junior – it cost just $16.99. Unfortunately, it is frustratingly inaccurate, even when you adjust it to balance out (see the yellow sliders). Once I finally got the empty scale to balance most of the time, and added some weight to each pan, it worked okay for this simple lesson. So I guess this is my negative review for this particular product. I now see there is a non-Junior version of the Pan Balance that got better reviews. I’m tempted to try that one out.

The very last RightStart lesson uses Geometric Solids, which is included in the Deluxe version, so I had to order that manipulative. I just ordered some on Amazon and got free shipping. But again, some families might already have this on hand, and if not, you have the entire level to get a hold of some geometric solids.

Hopefully this post may help someone out if they’re deciding on purchasing one of the RightStart Starter Kits. I started with the normal Starter Kit, but during the year I did buy the Card Games book, the Math Balance, Plastic Coins from them, and the only thing I’ve used after almost an entire RightStart level was the plastic coins.

We’ll be finishing up RightStart A next week and then we’re taking a break. We’ll be going on summer vacation to National Parks and then mid-July we’ll be starting up RightStart B. Hopefully that level we’ll be able to use our RightStart math balance.