GRADE 1 MATH
How do you pick the BEST first grade math program?
When it comes to choosing a math curriculum, we encourage parents to consider some basic factors-we call them the FAMILY factors. The FAMILY acronym stands for Faith, Approach, Money, Individual, Life and You. These factors apply to all of your curriculum choices, but let’s take a few moments and look them in the context of choosing a math curriculum.
Do you prefer a religious, a neutral or a secular math program? Religious or Christian programs contain faith-based or instructional content from a religious perspective. Neutral programs avoid religious topics or present multiple viewpoints without preference. Secular programs contain content contrary to Christian beliefs.
In other subject areas, we talk about Classical, Charlotte Mason, Traditional, or more. Most math curriculum would be considered Traditional like you find in schools. They often include a text, teacher manual, tests and more. Another consideration in math is the teaching methodology. The majority of math curriculum will be either Spiral or Sequential.
- Spiral learning means topics and concepts are repeated from level to level, adding more depth at each pass and connecting with review. Examples include Saxon and Abeka Math curriculum.
- Sequential learning means the curriculum progresses through well-defined learning objectives, with an emphasis on mastery before moving to the next topic. Examples include Math U See and the Singapore Math methodology.
What is your curriculum budget? When comparing costs of curriculum, make sure all factors are considered. Is the program sold in a complete package or are there additional items to purchase? What about consumable components? This is an important consideration if you plan to use the program with more than one child. Consumable means that the student writes in the book, using it up. Non-consumables, on the other hand, are reusable.
Does a program fit the learning style and abilities of your child? Common learning styles include the auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learners. Use of manipulatives may be helpful for students with visual or kinesthetic learning styles. Another consideration is the pacing of the program-which is how fast the instruction moves. Depending on your child, a slower pace with more review and repetition may be necessary, or alternatively, the child may need the challenge of a faster pace.
Every family situation is different. Are you balancing part-time or full-time employment? Will a grandparent or friend be co-teaching and need ready to go lessons? Are there other family dynamics involved like a new baby, or health issue in a family member? All of these will impact your decision.
Often the most overlooked, but one of great importance that extends from the LIFE factor. What are your needs? How confident do you feel about teaching math? Some publishers provide scripted lessons—especially in the elementary years. Scripting means that every word the teacher needs to say is right there in the teacher’s manual. Some programs also provide video teaching aids. When considering your needs, consider whether the program requires low, medium, or high teacher involvement. Low Teacher Involvement programs often feature student-led materials that allow the student to work independently. Parents act more as a facilitator. Medium Teacher Involvement programs provide a mix of teacher-led time and independent student work. High Teacher Involvement programs typically have teacher led lessons, hands-on activities, teacher-student discussions and more, which require more one-on-one time.
Along with the FAMILY factors, here are a few additional considerations.
- Does the program use hands on manipulatives? While tactile learners thrive with manipulatives, it is common for elementary children who show signs of other learning styles, to excel with the concrete learning that manipulatives provide. If you don’t feel manipulatives are valuable for your learner or fit in your budget, consider picking a program with ample pictures or graphics that teach the concepts, to help solidify concepts for children in the concrete stage of learning.
- Remember, YOU are the teacher, and the math program is simply a tool. The program that feels right today, may not feel that way in a few weeks. Whether you need to repeat lessons in a mastery- based program or move faster through a slower paced, spiral program, you are in control. If you are unsure how to do this, reach out to one of our curriculum consultants. We would be happy to help you.
Our Rainbow consultant team has put together a Math Curriculum Comparison Chart that can be downloaded here . This is designed to show how the various math programs provide for the needs of your family along the lines of the FAMILY factors.