Rightstart Mathematics

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  • Reviewed on Wednesday, October 19, 2016
  • Grades Used: B (1st), C (2nd), D (3rd)
  • Dates used: 2016-2017
After three years in private school I pulled my son out to homeschool because he just did not understand math. He could follow the procedures and get correct answers on worksheets and tests (and thus had an A in math) but was unable to apply any of it to real life. Situations where he needed to apply simple, single-digit subtraction, for example, were lost on him. And I'm talking about a smart almost-9-year-old getting ready for third grade. The teacher refused to acknowledge there was a problem and the public school we considered transferring him into naturally based part of their assessment on his current teacher's recommendation (which was that our son was just being lazy). We realized home school was our only option. Doing a search for a curriculum that was both spiral and mastery led me to RightStart. It has been great. The very first day, my son said, "Now that makes sense." Having watched his struggle for three years and never hearing those words, I almost started crying.

We decided to start him in Level B (1st grade) as soon as private school let out for the summer. He has been working hard all summer and fall and will finish Level B on December 1st. Then we will dive right into Level C and hopefully finish early summer of 2017. My son will be an upcoming fourth grader by then, so we'll jump right in to Level D (3rd grade) and work on that all summer and fall, following the same pattern as this year, starting Level E (4th grade) in December of next year and finishing it just as my son finishes fourth grade the following June. It will take two years of doing math year-round but, thanks to the fact that RightStart only has 140 lessons per year instead of 180, we will finish four grades in two solid years.

We also do addition and subtraction review facts every morning, despite the fact that RightStart says right out that this is not recommended. But for my son, adding and subtracting quickly in his head is something he will never be able to do easily if he has to rely solely on figuring them. Math will never be his strength. But it is no longer his nemesis.

There is no such thing as a perfect curriculum. But I think I've hit on something pretty close with RightStart. And my son is actually understanding math more now than before.

Update 7/2017: We finished Level B on schedule and are going into 4th grade almost done with Level C. His understanding continues to grow and I plan to continue using RightStart through Level G. I wanted to add one other thing--when I initially called RightStart for help with placement, they didn't even ask about his abilities, what he was currently working on, struggling with, etc. They heard that he was a 9-year-old upcoming 3rd grader and immediately told me to start in Level C or D. I said I was trying to decide between A or B, considering his complete lack of understanding all things mathematical, and they continued to insist either C or D. I'm glad I listened to my instincts. We went with B, which was the right choice, but there were plenty of times throughout the first year where I wondered if we should've started with A.

Update 12/2017: Continuing RightStart has been the right choice for my son (and now daughter, who we also wound up pulling out of private school, her due to a lack of being challenged). Both children are in Level D (son is a 4th grader, daughter is in 3rd), slightly apart in the book so they aren't doing the same lesson each day. We are a little "off schedule" and won't quite have four levels done in two years, but since we've decided to stick with RightStart through the end of 6th grade, we have a few more years to help get it all done. We use "Flashmaster" for reviewing math facts every day as well.


  • Reviewed on Thursday, April 16, 2015
  • Grades Used: 1st-2nd
  • Dates used: 2013-2015
My daughter attended a Montessori preschool for Kindergarten, and I was looking for a math program that would build off of the concepts she learned from that experience. We love RightStart! We used the simple placement test to choose Level B for my daughter, which she started just after her 6th birthday. We chose the Second Edition because it has many improvements over the first, including ease of use and greater use of manipulatives and card games. Rightstart does plan to continue to support the first edition. I’d recommend watching their youtube video that explains the differences to help deciding which to buy. We completed Level B and now almost done Level C, second edition.

--Extensive use of manipulatives—we used most of the manipulatives in the kit for level B, and now that we’re almost done level C, I think we’ve used everything or nearly everything.
--Integrated use of manipulatives—the manipulatives ARE the lesson. They are not added as an afterthought, but are used to convey math concepts to the child and to help the child solve problems. I think hand-on learning benefits ALL learners, not just those who need the kinesthetic approach.
--Use of games for practice—the program also integrates math games into the learning and the manipulatives kit includes a game book explaining hundreds of game ideas. Rather than have a child sit and do worksheet, she gets to play a card game to practice fluency. Since my daughter spends a day a week with her grandmother, this is a great thing for them to do together and she still does “school work.” Next year my son will start Level B, and I’m looking forward to the three of us playing games together.
--Low use of worksheets—My daughter was a reluctant writer at the beginning of first grade, so I’m glad that there wasn’t too much writing. The number of worksheets seemed to be just the right amount for her, and the amount of writing/number of worksheets increases as you progress through the level and from one level to the next, so that there is some writing for nearly every lesson by the end of Level C, but that feels like the right amount for my daughter now. The worksheets are not busy work but are essential for relaying concepts. As I said, the manipulatives are the lesson, the worksheets are merely the reinforcement (and if your child likes worksheets, there are still enough to keep her happy, too).
--Short lessons—like the worksheets, the lessons are short but their length increases incrementally. Level B they were 15-20min; level C are 20-30min. Occasionally we will wait and play the recommended game later or another day if it feels things are getting too long.
--Amazing “flow”—except for a few “hiccups,” for the most part I really appreciate how the concepts flow from lesson to lesson. There may be several lessons on an arithmetic concept, and when that starts to feel tiring, we are suddenly moving on to geometry or getting out a new manipulative or working on a new project. The arithmetic concepts are still reviewed during the warm up, but it feels like just the right amount before a break. So there may be several lesson on subtraction, then several on geometry, which gives us a break before coming back to something else. Yet, the lessons are interwoven so that learning from one lesson will flow into another. I have been able to observe this and appreciate it much more in Level C than B. For example, the child may use the drawing board to practice dividing shapes into halves. The next lesson, she might divide shapes into thirds. Then she will be asked to divide shapes into thirds two different ways. She can then see, visually, that if she overlays the lines for the thirds, she can divide the shape into sixths. This may go for several lessons, then will transition into lessons about fractions and she can easily make the connection that 1/6 + 1/6 = 1/3 because she DREW it in a previous lesson. Sometimes I wonder where the lessons are going, but then I start to see how things are interwoven and it clicks for me as the teacher how ingenious this is.
--Well-scripted lessons—the teacher’s manual has good explanations and walks you through the steps for each lesson.
--Little prep time—I just look ahead to the lessons for the next week and set the manipulatives aside, but I don’t find that I need to read the lessons ahead of time as everything is scripted.

--Parent-intensive—You must do the lessons with your child. I feel that young children learn best with one-on-one, in person instruction, rather than learning from a workbook, video, or computer program, but it is a time commitment from the parent. Luckily the lessons and prep time are short. I also feel/hope that the time I am putting into lessons now will pay off later when she’s older and has a fantastic foundation in math. Then she can work independently and I can kick back with my tea (ok, well, teach the other kids, anyway!). It also seems like because there are more worksheets as we progress, there may be more time where the parent can leave the child to work out a few problems and it may become more independent. We will see as we move to higher levels.
--High upfront cost—the manipulatives kit is expensive, which can cause sticker shock compared to other programs. I felt better knowing that the kit would be used for Levels B-F and I have two other children to complete the program (5 levels x 3 kids). Rightstart has a high resale value, plus I thought even if it didn’t work out for us, I could use the math card games and manipulatives to add to another math program.
--A few “hiccups”—Although for the most part the lessons flow nicely, there were a few areas where I felt there was a jump in what the program was asking the child to do. At one point we scrapped worksheet because I just felt it was asking my daughter more than what she was prepared to do from the previous lessons. I think this happened once in B and maybe twice in C. Since the lessons build on a concept, this was usually the last lesson before we “switched gears” to something else, so I usually felt we would come back to the concept again and it did not hold us back.
--The program ends—The Second Edition will have levels A-F, and there is a level G that is strictly geometry. Rightstart recommends doing level G concurrently with a program from another company called VideoText. So, assuming we continue with RightStart, we will be covered until about 6th grade, then will need to move to something else. Since this is a few years away, we will wait to make that decision closer to the time. I feel like my child is getting such a strong foundation in mathematical reasoning that she will be able to transition into something else when she’s done.

I just want to say again that we LOVE Rightstart! I think the phrase I just wrote sums it up well: Rightstart gives the child a strong foundation in mathematical reasoning. I also want to note that this is the first (and only, so far) review I have written for any curriculum, but I find myself toting its praises so often to my friends and on facebook, I felt that I should write something more formal for other families doing research. I find reviews from others so helpful in making decisions, so I hope this helps you!


  • Reviewed on Tuesday, January 27, 2015
  • Grades Used: 4th grade
  • Dates used: August 2014-January 2014

This is my first time to do a review of a curriculum. I got this curriculum through my son's charter school. I had researched this program for a while and thought it would be a perfect fit for my son this year who is in 4th grade since he has a lot of difficulty with attention. We are using level D. We did the transition lessons for a month and have been using it since. At the beginning, my son loved it. He loved all the manipulatives. But as time when on, he has been so frustrated and having meltdowns everyday during math for the last 2 months (literally) that today we decided to terminate Right Start.

Some reasons are as follows:
Very brief explanations to where I was having difficulty understanding some of the lessons and concepts. This is probably the main reason-if I don't understand what they are teaching, how can I expect my son to understand :) I am not a mathy person but I am a substitute teacher and a tutor so I do have some background.

I feel that it is not covering enough of what is need for standards and I am afraid that he is very behind because of this program which really surprised me since it is supposed to be an advanced program. For instance, we have not really started multiplication strategies and we are on lesson 51. We are going over number checks?- never heard of before. This lesson had my son in tears and I did understand this one!

Overall, I am disappointed. I really wanted it to work but don't want my son to hate math. I know a lot of people love this program and it's a good fit for kids that are quick with math and don't need a lot of explanations.



  • Reviewed on Saturday, February 1, 2014
  • Grades Used: B/K-1
  • Dates used: 2013-2014
Updated June 2016.
I now have 2 children with RS.
The second edition has a better layout and more game suggestions.

It's still time-consuming to teach, but the results stay consistent and so we will stick with it.

*I did toy with the idea of switching to TT, but my 9yo begged to stay with RS. Her reason? She likes working with me. And, in the end, isn't that one reason that I am homeschooling my kids? So that I can work with them? :)

Very much a hands-on program.
Lots of manipulatives.
Lots of games.
The abacus is an amazing tool!

It is absolutely a 1 on 1 program, which means that mom's time must be dedicated to this math program for each lesson (no multi-tasking).

There is a lot of "required" mental math at a low level. We simply allowed our daughter to use her abacus any time she needed it and thus avoided much frustration. Not many 6 year olds can mentally add 36+27, so I didn't stress the mental math at this level.

Some of the concepts were difficult to explain and at first I was stressed that my daughter didn't do it the way the book suggested. She was able to figure out the answers using her own way...which is just fine. And, it turns out that "her" way is actually the way RS wants a child to do the math later in the program.

The concepts jump around quite a bit. In the middle of mental addition, a child will change direction and do work on symmetry or work on the peg board. These lessons seem a bit random, but I think that my daughter enjoyed the change of pace.

Not every lesson suggests a game, so it's good to know that any game can be played for review at any time - it doesn't have to be scripted in.

In All....
This is a program that has a permanent place in our home classroom. We have been quite pleased with the way RS teaches math.
This is a perfect program for Wiggly Willies and Social Sues. Maybe not for Perfect Peters, though. :D

Hope it helps!