kitchen table math, the sequel: RightStart

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


anonymous says:
RightStart is, indeed, an Asian mental abacus program--but it's actually more. I can say, hands down, that RightStart is superior in every way to Singapore in the first grade level. And that's saying a LOT because Singapore is amazing!

Want to get the worst kid in the class adding two-digit numbers with regrouping in first grade? And adding four-digit numbers on paper with PERFECT understanding? RightStart does it. RightStart takes the very best of Asian mathematics programs and distills it down into it essence. It uses a very few select manipulatives extremely well--as conceptual connectors, not crutches--which echoes the author's original background in Montessori education.

AND it's scripted, so it helps teach the educator even as it teaches the student, even it the educator isn't a naturally mathy person.

If you want your child to score in the 90th percentile, I will guarantee that RightStart can do it with any kid of AVERAGE intelligence. The most that it requires from the instructor is to pay attention to any stumbling place and to further break down and clarify any points of confusion that might arise rather than doing sheer repetition--solve the problem rather than waiting for it to resolve itself by using the approach that YOU'VE learnt from RightStart and apply it to the lesson at hand to chop it into smaller bits.

My son had intuitive mathematical power, but with his language processing problems, communicating anything he couldn't instantly intuit was very, very hard--until I found RightStart. It was amazing. We did the entire series because he needed to make stronger connections between language and concept, and I've never been so impressed with a math program. Ever.

Now, Singapore does have one powerful tool that RS lacks--it has the model method of problem solving, and the word problems are more sophisticated and also much more frequent. RS also weirdly peters out before really giving much work on multiplying and dividing fractions using the standard algorithm, having covered it EXCELLENTLY conceptually but not having practiced it as it does other things.

Anyhow, my very mathy kid is using the sequence RightStart/Singapore Primary to NEM 1-3/Additional Mathematics/IMACS Elements of Mathematics. His personality is such that getting him to do any practice not on the Flashmaster is WWIII, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. (which has already added some 6 months to his journey, though daily battles and sheer cussedness...)

My next door neighbor is very, very UN-mathy (failed algebra II), and her kid would be thrilled to step through algorithms without understanding a thing, if he can. After Calvert failed him (letting him get away with zero comprehension), she's now doing RightStart with great results. His sequence will likely be Right Start to Life of Fred/VideoText to either community college or ChalkDust or EPGY for calc.

In short, it works great for very different kids.


ElizabethB said...

I'm using RightStart to supplement Singapore. The abacus was very helpful to get my daughter understanding regrouping.

Overall, she's learning more from Singapore, but RightStart was very helpful for "seeing" regrouping. We also use their games to help with math facts.

Catherine Johnson said...

I have to find out whether RightStart is the same program people here are talking about.

All I know is "abacus."

Which is not much to go on.

Sara R said...

Right Start Website

Resources The interactive abacus looks cool.

I used the book "Activities for the AL abacus" and worksheets with my preschoolers. I loved how it taught them a correct perception of place value from the very beginning. Once they knew their addition and subtraction facts, I switched them to Singapore 1A.

The downside of RightStart is that it is more expensive than other math programs, and it only goes up to 4th grade (correct me if I'm wrong). There is also a hands-on geometry program that looks interesting.

Crimson Wife said...

My oldest used Levels B & C of Right Start (1st & 2nd, the kindergarten Level A is optional as everything is repeated in B at a faster pace). She is now in Singapore 3A.

I actually just did a blog post about why I initially chose RS and why I've switched her to Singapore.

I'm planning to start my younger kids out in RS because I think the early levels provides an outstanding foundation in math.

Anonymous said...

Yup--We used RightStart B instead of Singapore 1A/B. It simply does a better job introducing key concepts at that level. We then went to Singapore 2A and have continued with Singapore with great success.

Anonymous said...

>The downside of RightStart is that it is more expensive than other math programs, and it only goes up to 4th grade (correct me if I'm wrong).

It's more expensive than some but less than others, and if you shop ahead, you can get used textbooks for a song. The big upfront expense are the materials.

After completing 4th grade, a child can more straight into VideoText Algebra. All but ONE lesson of Singapore 5 was review, and almost all of Singapore 6 has been covered, too. It is much faster paced than even Singapore. Except for practice with the traditional algorithm for the multiplication and division of fractions, it's really covered all K-6 mathematics, leaving a kid ready for pre-algebra. is the website. They have samples online. They're worth reading!

Singapore begins its model method of solving word problems in grade 3, so you'll likely want to supplement RS with Sing by then if you'd rather not switch. (I found that even the upper level elementary concepts were usually better presented in RS....)

For those who don't know, Singapore's model method is an amazing approach to drawing out word problems that in American schools would only be solved in Algebra, making it visually obvious what should be done without the use of variables and making the transition to Algebra seamless. So it's worth it to teach even if you already have a great program.

RS teaches place value better than I've ever seen AND strategies for addition, subtraction, and multiplication better than I've ever seen, and Singapore's model method is the single most powerful way of going after a word problem.

RS can also be condensed, if you do it skillfully, for a gifted kid, but Singapore's easier to condense. The fastest DS could do RS 4th grade (E) was maybe 4-8 days' worth in an hour, and that's with skipping reviews, warm up, and flying through the lesson, simply because it isn't that compressible, while today, he did 2.5 weeks' worth of Singapore 6A in exactly 40 minutes.

For severely LD students, RS is NOT a good place to start, as it starts from the assumption that a child can figure out one-to-one correspondence in a single lesson even if he can't count. I recommend Math Their Way for these students instead, as it has many different approaches to learning one-to-one correspondence, and then moving on to RS once a child has a firm grounding in that. This is for moderately to severely (but not profoundly) MR students, those with specific math-related LDs, and some low-mildly MR students. A high MR student without other complications would probably be fine with RS as long as you start with A, do tons of repetition, and go slowly.



Ari-free said...

"After Calvert failed him (letting him get away with zero comprehension), she's now doing RightStart with great results."

There's an important point to be made here. Old school math *needed* reform. There was a big problem with its endless timed tests of random 4+2, 5x7 questions with 0% comprehension and 100% pressure and frustration (in the real 'good' old days, you'd get a smack on the hand if you missed a problem). Reform math came along and filled the vacuum and we've only responded with Singapore Math and other programs very recently.