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Jennifer Dages:  We have used Rightstart for 2 years and in that time completed one level, but we did take it slower than suggested.  We love this program.  It lays out the information in a very sensible manner and the student is able to get a clear understanding and picture of what they are learning.  Primary manipulative is the abacus which is specially adapted for the program.  I intend to use this with all 4 of my children and to continue as far as the program goes.

LivingMathForum member:  I've used RightStart for 2 years.  It the only math program that works for my kinetic, tactile son.  He love the games for practicing skills.  My younger son has picked up a lot from watching & participating in some of the games (he's a visual learner).  I may have to start him in level B instead of A.  I'll used this program to the last level available.


Q&A re abacus: Rhonda wrote (posted w/permission)

Dear Mrs. Cotter

I have been looking for the right math program for my 6 yr old. We are doing the K5 Bob Jones curriculum via HomeSat. The program is fantastic, it is just that my son is thinking way ahead of what they are teaching. He is doing double digit mental math. I did not teach him this, he has figured it out for himself. There has been no drill work and our curriculum is still stuck on 2+3=5. I need a Math program that can keep up with my boy and utilize the way in which he is processing numbers. I have realized through doing BJ that my son relates very well to the abacus. I have spent countless hours trying to find an abacus curriculum for him. I haven't found any that are as extensive as Right Start's. I have repeatedly returned to Right Start's sight to view the curriculum again and again.

The abacus that the Right Start curriculum uses is not a traditional abacus (Soroban(4:1)abacus). It also doesn't look like they are ever going to upgrade to one either. What happens when we want to go a lot further in math on the abacus than what Right Start offers? Would it not be like teaching math all over again when transfereing to a traditionl abacus? Are all math operations(+,-,x,/)taught on the abacus with Right Start? Would you please tell me all the math that is taught exclusively with an abacus in your program? How much is the abacus used in the curriculum?

Joan Cotter wrote:

        First let me discuss the purpose of abacuses. People have been using various abacuses since 3000 BC. Until very recently, they were used mainly for calculations; indeed, they are a manual calculator. The Japanese abacus (soroban) and the Chinese abacus (suanpan) are very efficient devices for simple calculations: adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, and square roots. However, to become fast requires hundreds of hours of practice. School children in China and Japan no longer learn how to use them. Japan stopped ten years ago. Who wants to spend hundreds of hours learning something that can be done much more easily with an electronic calculator? Last year we invited a Japanese foreign exchange student to our home for dinner; she did not know how to use the Japanese abacus, but I did.


        Some Americans try to use the Chinese abacus to teach place value. It is interesting to note that the Asian abacuses were not used to teach math. In those countries, children did not start to learn how to use them until third grade. At that age they had known place value for two years. (Because of the way Asian languages name their numbers, children know place value early in first grade.)

        On the other hand, the AL abacus is designed to teach math concepts, including place value, strategies for mastering the facts, the four arithmetic operations, money, and so forth. It is a true math manipulative, which means it is visualizable, or can be seen and manipulated in the mind. After the child develops a mental representation of a concept on the abacus, the child spontaneously stops using it. Also, since the AL abacus is visual and kinesthetic, it appeals to most children.

        So, Rhonda, there is no need to upgrade to a "traditional" abacus. There is no math program that uses the abacus through to calculus. Fractions, geometry, statistics, algebra, trigonometry, and many other mathematical topics cannot be taught on any abacus. Incidentally, the last chapter in the Activities for the AL Abacus book has instructions for morphing the AL abacus into a Japanese (or Chinese) abacus. and learning to add on it.    

        Joan Cotter, Ph.D.

        RightStart Mathematics by Activities for Learning

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