The Math with Confidence series will eventually cover kindergarten through sixth grade. Courses for kindergarten through second grade are available as of August 2022, with the next two courses following at a rate of one per year.
These comprehensive math courses use hands-on, interactive lessons to help children learn math concepts and master their math facts. Each course has a full-color student workbook and a black-and-white instructor guide.
While these are hands-on courses, they don’t require expensive manipulatives, and you will use many of the same manipulatives for both kindergarten and first grade. The instructor guides tell you how to put together your own math kit of manipulatives for each course.
The manipulatives used for both kindergarten and first grade include pattern blocks, counters, coins, and 3” x 5” index cards. Kindergartners also need centimeter cubes (or squares), and first graders will need play-money bills, two packs of playing cards, two dice, a clock with hands, and a ruler. Second graders will use most of the same items as first graders, but they will also use base-ten blocks. I very much appreciate the gradual additions to the manipulatives used for each course since this helps keep the cost down.
Blackline masters at the back of the instructor guides can be used to create the pattern blocks, coins, and bills (paper money) as well as two-dimensional versions of centimeter squares and base-ten blocks (which can be used in place of the three-dimensional items). Personally, because of both durability and the time it takes to print, laminate, and cut everything out, I'd be more likely to buy items like pattern blocks and centimeter cubes. Wooden or plastic shapes are also easier for children to handle. It's important to point out that the blackline master coin and bill pages show plain money without symbols or words for any particular country or type of currency. This might be useful in some situations, but most children will do best working with real money.
Many other household items will be used for just one or a few lessons. These include items such as scissors, tape, paper clips, a digital clock, small toys, an egg carton, toothpicks, and measuring cups. Weekly and daily lists of required items are in the lesson plans, and a complete list can be found toward the back of each instructor guide.
The blackline masters also include pages with a ten-frame and a hundred chart that will be used in kindergarten and first grade with some of the manipulatives. Blackline masters for second grade include a place-value chart, number line, fraction bars, and other visual aids and manipulatives. I would recommend laminating some of these pages since they will be used frequently.
The courses are presented in units, with 10 units for kindergarten, 11 for first grade, and 14 for second grade. The number of weeks required per unit varies from two to four. Each week has four core lessons. Those lessons should take no more than 15 minutes a day for kindergarten and 30 minutes for first grade and second grade. Optional suggestions are provided for the fifth day, and these include picture books to read that relate to the week’s math topic. For instance, the book recommended for the week on spatial skills in kindergarten is Shapes, Shapes, Shapes by Tana Hoban. (The suggested books should be available at the library.)
Each unit focuses on one broad topic at a time, and each week teaches sub-topics related to the broad topic. For instance, Unit 5 of the kindergarten course teaches about the topic of addition, and the first week within that unit has four lessons titled, “Introduce Addition,” “The Plus Sign (+),” “The Equals Sign (=),” and “Equations.” All of these lessons teach elements of addition and how to write addition equations.
At the beginning of each week’s lesson in the instructor guide, one or two pages briefly describe the objectives and list any special items you will need. They might also explain how to use the manipulatives or apply other teaching methods. You will find the title of the suggested picture book(s) for the week there as well.
Each day’s lesson has a chart showing what will be done and what will be needed for the three main parts of each lesson: the warm-up, the main lesson, and the workbook activity. The charts make it easy to get an overview of the lesson very quickly.
Everything is directed from the instructor guide. Daily lessons begin with a three- to five-minute period of warmup and review to keep previously learned skills fresh in students’ minds. Memory work is added for first and second graders. Occasionally, the warmup includes a simple game such as Addition War or Make 10 Go Fish. Instructions for the activities and games are included.
After the warmup, a hands-on activity is used to teach new information. This will take five to ten minutes for kindergarten and an additional five minutes for first and second graders. The lessons are scripted in the instructor guide, but you should feel free to adapt the wording and presentation to suit you.
Lessons end with workbook activities that should take no more than five minutes for kindergartners and ten minutes for first and second graders.
At the end of each week’s lessons, the instructor guide has reduced images of the student workbook pages with overprinted answers.
Every unit concludes with a Checkpoint page that lists objectives that the child should have met and discusses what to do if those objectives have not been achieved. This is a helpful form of evaluation that is simple to use. The first- and second-grade instructor guides sometimes add suggestions for review and practice if they are needed.
The Math with Confidence lessons require direct teaching time as well as some preparation time. You can try to use the lessons without going over them in advance, but I think they are likely to go more smoothly if you spend just a few minutes reading through the lesson plan before you begin.
The courses are relatively inexpensive, and you can save by purchasing PDFs rather than printed books. Personally, I would probably buy the printed student workbook and use a PDF for the instructor guide.
Kindergarten Math with Confidence
Kindergarten Math with Confidence is appropriate for children who already recognize numbers and can count to ten. They should also have developed enough small-motor coordination to write in the workbook, but parents can assist those who need help writing. The course consists of a 452-page instructor guide and a 128-page student workbook.
Children will learn to read, write, and compare numbers; count to 100; perform addition using numbers and operation symbols for sums up to 10 (continuing with only pictorial addition up to 20); subtract numbers up to 10; recognize shapes and patterns; follow directions; and begin work with money, telling time, and measurement.
For kindergartners, the emphasis is on interaction and activities, with minimal time spent on the workbook. So there is only one workbook page for each day, with two brief workbook activities. One activity has children practice tracing numbers and another has them practice a new or previously learned skill.
With lessons for only four days, you can use the fifth day if a child needs more time for some lessons rather than working too long on any one day. The pages at the beginning of the week’s lesson include two optional activities that might be appropriate for use on the fifth day: “Weaving Math into Everyday Life” and reading the math-related picture book. The everyday-life activity makes a real-world connection with what is being learned. For instance, during the week when children are working with pattern blocks to learn spatial skills, the suggestion is to either work on a jigsaw puzzle or create their own.
First and Second Grade Courses
The first- and second-grade courses are very similar in design.
The main lessons use many different hands-on approaches, including the use of manipulatives, games like bingo, and scavenger hunts. Game-board pages are included in both the student book and the instructor guide.
For first and second graders, the amount of written work increases to two workbook pages for each lesson. One page provides practice with the topic of the lesson while the second page is for review. In the first-grade course, many of the workbook’s 256 pages feature pictorial problem solving rather than only numbers.
With core lessons for only four days, you can use the fifth day for an optional enrichment lesson each week. Enrichment lessons include a warm-up session for review, counting practice, and memory work. You might follow the warm-up by reading the recommended picture book with your child. You might also use the other enrichment activities to help children understand how they can use math in everyday life. These activities might be projects, field trips, the “Make 10 Bowling” game, or interactive play, such as pretend store.
Before beginning First Grade Math with Confidence, children need to know how to count to at least 10, write numbers up to 10, identify basic shapes, and solve simple addition or subtraction word problems with manipulatives. First Grade Math with Confidence teaches numbers up to 100, addition facts to 100, subtraction facts with minuends up to 100, equal and congruent shapes, place value to the hundreds, measurement (inches, feet, meters, and centimeters), the calendar, telling time, money (coins and bills), and mental math.
The most important prerequisites for Second Grade Math with Confidence are being able to count to 100 by 1s, 2s, 5s, and 10s; understanding place value through the tens place; being able to perform simple addition and subtraction; and knowing most addition facts through 9 + 9 and subtraction facts through 10-10. This course teaches skills such as reading, writing, and comparing numbers to 1000; borrowing and carrying; adding three-digit numbers to three-digit numbers and subtracting three-digit numbers from three-digit numbers; measuring inches, feet, yards, centimeters, and meters; naming various three-dimensional solids; splitting shapes into fractional parts down to eighths; counting money up to $1,000; creating and interpreting various types of graphs; and telling time. There are plenty of word problems, and many lessons work on mental math.
The Math with Confidence courses do a great job of helping parents use hands-on activities to teach their young children without needing to buy an expensive program. The scripted lessons make it easy for inexperienced homeschoolers. And children should find the lessons playful and fun.