Have you considered using other math materials that are not Montessori? I have consulted many Montessori homeschoolers for over 15 years. Many love and enjoy using the Montessori math materials. However, there are non-Montessori math materials and programs that many Montessori homeschoolers have considered. I have received many questions on these programs and I've put together some information, based on the experience of a few homeschoolers, as well as a statement from the director of one of these programs. The non-Montessori math materials that are often considered by Montessori homeschoolers are Shiller Math and RightStart Math.

From homeschooling mom Tanya:

"I bought and used Shiller Math for my son and my neighbor's son the summer before last. My son had gone to a Montessori primary class and public school kindergarten. I found that during his public school time he was loosing his math skills that he had acquired from his Montessori education. My neighbor's son was a year older (completed 1st at that time) and she was concerned about some learning difficulties he was having. I bought the Shiller program to strengthen their skills. We all enjoyed using it. Math is not my strong point so I was glad to have each lesson scripted. Each lesson is short so you can do as much as is appropriate. The kit comes with manipulatives, which I still use when we need to work concretely with his current homework. Mr. Shiller is very available to answer questions and clarify the work. A big bonus in my book! We never really got around to using the CD of songs. I've got a player in my car now so perhaps I'll use it with my daughter (3 yrs)."

From homeschooler Christina R.:

"Yes, I do homeschool, and I use the Shiller math program as a main source of mathematical learning. I would, however, definitely recommend this program as a supplement to public school education for several reasons: 1) The program is easy to implement. Everything you need to say is written down. No preparation required. 2 ) In public school (typically) information is presented, the child is tested, graded, and then they move on whether the grade was an 'A' or an 'E'. Using the Shiller Math program will allow you to present the information, quiz (we just call them activities) and then see each area that needs to be gone over again. 3) If you have any problems a Shiller Yahoo group is set up for parents to ask questions and share. Often Mr. Larry Shiller will even answer the questions himself. 4) If you are not keen on e-mail or need immediate help just call the 800 number and get live help. 5) The information is presented in a spiral fashion meaning you will revisit the material in subsequent activities. No need to go back and make sure that "old" stuff is still stuck. 6) Most importantly, as a supplement, there is no time line to keep up with. You can do 1 activity every day, or 10 everyday, or five only on Friday, or whatever works for your daughter. If she says I had a rough day at school, you can feel confident in saying OK we'll try some tomorrow."--Christina R.

There is another program you can compare it to called RightStart Math, designed by a Montessori trained teacher with a PHd in math. She uses an abacus, geoboard, and nice wood puzzle fraction board. Here's their website www.rightstartmath.com... I went to the math website, it is similar to Montessori but in a strange way. I'm not sure why her manipulatives are in groups of fives and twenty-fives, or why she uses blue and yellow in her groups of fives, etc. Same with her abacus. However, her materials were affordable compared to traditional Montessori materials.

Here is a description from the creator of RightStart Math: "I am an AMI-trained Montessorian for ages 3-6. In my children's house, I noticed that the children had a difficult time with the bead frame. When a child adds the second number on the bead frame, any trading is done part way through adding the second number. This is contrary to both paper and pencil and mental procedures, where trading is performed after the two addends are combined. Another problem with the bead frame is that the "columns" are horizontal,inconsistent with the way we write numbers and inconsistent even with the decimal cards. To help the children, I invented the doubled-sided AL Abacus that allows the children to enter both addends before trading. The beads are also grouped in fives similar to the black and white bead stairs.

"Ten years later, I did my doctoral research in a first-grade mathematics class, using many of Dr. Montessori's principles, but incorporating grouping in fives, as well as tens, to emphasize visualization while de-emphasizing counting. Because of the outstanding success of those children, the school asked me to continue writing lesson plans. Thus was born the RightStart Mathematics Program from age 4 through middle school. Thousands of homeschool educators now use it as well as schools, including some Montessori schools. You can check it out at https://rightstartmath.com/." ~Joan A. Cotter, Ph.D.

My thoughts: What makes Montessori math different is the focus on the decimal system. For example. Units are 1-9, tens are 10-99, 100s are 100-9999, etc. Children learn this by the materials which include the symbols and they are color coded. (The symbols at the other math website were not color coded.) In Montessori math, units are green, tens are red, hundreds blue, thousands are green. You can see this in the Montessori abacus and the symbols, stamp game, and skittle game, etc. The Golden Beads are all one color to enforce sensorial experience of math quantity. Ultimately the decision is yours and I hope my blog post helps you in that process!

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You may also like to read my post "Montessori Math on a Shoestring Budget" here. Looking for affordable online Montessori homeschool programs? Visit my website Montessori for the Earth.

~Lisa Nolan