*Still deciding whether RightStart is right for you? Check out my full review. *

## Buying Guide

Interested in using RightStart Math in your homeschool? Buying their curriculum can be confusing, because they are currently in the midst of producing a second edition. This RightStart Math Buying Guide will help clear up the confusion and help you make the best choice for your child and your budget.

### Step 1: Placement test

First, have your child take the placement test. RightStart is organized into levels A through E. Level A is typically kindergarten, Level B is first grade, and so on. But, because RightStart has a somewhat unusual scope and sequence, your child may place lower than his or her previous math level. Don’t be worried about this—all curriculum have different definitions of grade levels, but it’s almost always counter-productive to add stress to math time by placing a child higher than the placement test suggests.

### Step 2: First edition or second edition?

Dr. Cotter wrote the First Edition in the late ‘90s. Over the past few years, she has begun revising the curriculum and has produced a Second Edition for Levels A, B, C, and D.

Both the first edition and second edition are still available, but I recommend that you purchase the second edition. Some of the benefits:

- Reflects new research and Dr. Cotter’s new insights into math teaching
- Contains more teaching notes and research notes to help you grow as a teacher
- Has a slightly easier-to-follow layout
- Requires one large up-front manipulative purchase, but then the same manipulatives are used throughout the levels. (For first edition, many manipulatives are re-used, but new manipulatives are added for each new level.)

## Frequently Asked Questions

**How can I prepare my preschooler to use RightStart?**

Check out my Preschool Math at Home for simple, playful activities that will help your child build number sense before beginning Level A.

**I already own the first edition. Do you think I should switch to the second edition?**

The first edition is excellent, and there’s no reason to switch if you already own it. (I personally use the first edition, since I bought it before the second edition was available.)

**My older child never developed good number sense and place value understanding. Can I use RightStart to help remediate that?**

Yes, but don’t buy the full curriculum. Instead, check out the Activities for the AL Abacus. It provides the most essential activities for developing solid number sense, understanding of place value, and computational fluency in a streamlined (and less expensive) package.

**Do I really need to buy that expensive manipulative kit?!**

Unfortunately, you really do. In the second edition, nearly all the manipulatives are used in every level, and they’re essential to the program.

**I love the idea of using math games in my homeschool, but I don’t want to use the full curriculum. What can I do? **

RightStart offers a comprehensive set of math games with games for every elementary math topic. I highly recommend it for adding some fun to any math curriculum.

Texasmom33 says

I was wondering about your feelings on using Level A for PreK 4. Is that too early? I wasn’t planning on starting a math for my 4 year old until next year, but after reading Dr. Cotter’ research and the way the numbers are presented I have begun to rethink that. I am concerned that hearing general counting past 10 at this point could lead to confusion over the ten-three, ten four, etc. method, (which honestly makes a lot of sense to me) when I try to introduce it next year. So it is bringing a feeling of expediency. I also have an older child who struggles with math and I know those feelings are weighing in as well. What is your take on starting prior to kindergarten with this program?

Kate says

I’ve personally used RightStart A with both of my kids when they were four, and I thought it worked well. I think the two biggest challenges to consider when using any curriculum early are making sure you’re not burning out your kid with too much too soon, and not causing frustration by forcing too much writing before the hand muscles are ready.

RightStart A has very little handwriting, but we skipped the number-writing exercises entirely and then did all of the work orally. To avoid four-year-old burnout, I tried to limit math to 5 or 10 minutes per day and just do as much as we could. Sometimes we’d cover most of a lesson, but other times we’d only cover a small chunk of a lesson. Some of the place-value work went over my daughter’s head last year (especially the hundreds and thousands) but since it’s covered in Level B as well, I just kept on going and didn’t try to force it.

(Overall, I love RightStart A and think it works well for a four-year-old as a slow and relaxed program. But if you’d like something a lighter, check out my Preschool Math at Home. It’s a great intro to RightStart A and develops the same kind of thinking, but with no handwriting and a focus on the numbers less than 10.)

Rharris says

Do you have the 4th or 5th edition of the game book? Would there be enough games in the 4th edition book? It looks like I can get the 4th edition game set for about 35 instead of 60…

Kate says

I have the 4th edition. It aligns with the 1st edition of the program, so if you’re using 1st edition anyway, go ahead and save some money!

Elizabeth says

I know this is an old post, but I found your blog through an old comment on WTM, and I’m hoping you won’t mind if I ask your opinion! Two years ago I started my (now) 6.5 year old daughter on RSA, we worked slowly through it, and then switched to SM Standards. We’re now finishing up 1B, and I think I’d like to go back to RS next year, to give her a different way of looking at the concepts. I think RS is better in the long run for mental math, and although she understood the concepts in SM just fine, she had a hard time figuring problems out on paper. (I think addition with sets of number bonds written on paper just got overwhelming for her.)

So, my question…I’m debating now between buying 2nd edition RSB, or C…I know 2nd edition C has a lot of review of concepts taught in B, but in taking the placement test, my daughter hasn’t added two 2-digit numbers yet (and so the placement test put her in B.) SM did cover addition of 2-digit numbers with carrying. Do you think she might be successful starting with C? (She understands how the abacus/balance, etc. work having used them in A.) Or should we start with B for reinforcement? Thank you so much, I really appreciate your advice!

Kate says

That’s a tough one–I can understand your dilemma! If her mental math is strong, I think you’d be fine moving on to Level C. As you said, there’s quite a bit of review of addition, and she will likely pick it up quickly with the mental groundwork that you’ve already laid. I’d expect you’d just need to spend a little more time on the addition lessons than RS C allocates. Perhaps plan on making up some more problems and camping out for a few days on 2-digit addition and then again at 4-digit addition? RS will continue to review addition throughout the rest of Level C, so once your daughter understands multi-digit addition well, she should be good to go.

Elizabeth says

Thank you so much, Kate! I’m excited about saving some money. 🙂

I guess if worse comes to worst, and I realize it’s moving too fast and she’s just not getting the concepts, I can go back and buy B…But you’re right that it’s easy enough to do my own reinforcement by making up problems, or maybe even using a hundreds chart and base ten blocks next to our abacus, since she’s used to them now, working out problems both ways.

Thanks for your help (and your blog!)

Mickie says

The Right Start math kits are expensive, do you think it would be easy to substitute the manipulatives with cheaper versions bought elsewhere. I was also thinking that I might be able to make my own flashcards similar to the ones provided in the kit. Do you think the flashcards could be easily duplicated as well?

Kate says

I know, they’re terribly expensive. It really bugs me that they’ve made it so ludicrously expensive to use their program. Having to spend $200 on manipulatives for kindergarten math just makes no sense.

Unfortunately, I’ve priced it out before and found that it’s hard to beat the prices on their bundles. Even if you pare it down to the absolutely essentials and make what you can, you still have to buy quite a bit. I think the best bet for saving money on their materials is to buy them used, if possible. They also sometimes have a Black Friday sale–but that only helps if you can wait to buy until November.

Catherine says

Hi, thank you for your blog & advice – it is very helpful. I’m currently using Rightstart A & B 1st edition with my kids (got 2nd hand a while ago). I though it might be a good idea to change over to 2nd ed as the 1st ed was written quite a while ago & I’ve heard the 2nd ed includes more games & is easier to teach from.

I’m in Australia, so purchasing this curriculum is even more expensive! But we really enjoy it & I can see what a great foundation my children are getting.

Could you please explain why didn’t you switch to 2nd edition (although you recommend purchasing the 2nd ed)? I have a 3rd child still to come of age, so I’m rationalising it as an investment, but I’m interested as to why people would keep going with the 1st edition if the 2nd is available (particularly for reasons other than cost). I’ve heard of Common Core mentioned, but that is of no relevance or concern to me & from what I understand, RS redesigned their 2nd ed to go above & beyond those standards anyway.

Many thanks 😀

Kate says

Hi Catherine,

For me, it’s purely a matter of cost that I didn’t switch to 2nd edition, not any particular pedagogical reason. The 1st edition is so excellent that I didn’t feel like my younger child missed out on anything by sticking with the 1st edition. But if you don’t mind spending the money on the new edition, go for it!

Catherine says

Hi Kate, thanks for your reply. So you are not concerned that the 1st ed. will not give your child as comprehensive an understanding of maths as the 2nd? That is my concern a bit – especially having read about the updates being based on new research & understandings of how children learn etc.

And at what point/Level do you anticipate stopping Rightstart with your child? I thought I’d try & make it at least until C or D. We’ll see 😀 I’m interested in your recommendations of Beast Academy, but we’re not up to that stage yet I don’t think.

Alicia says

Hey Kate. My 5th grader has never ‘memorized’ her multiplication facts. She can say them but when she sees a problem, 7×8, she counts up to it (if that makes sense….7, 14,21,28,35,42,49,56,63,70, etc) it’s slowing her down so much now with division and making her feel inadequate and it’s killing both of us 😕 I came across RightStart and love the method behind it but seeing as she’s in 5th grade now I don’t know where to start? Do you have any suggestions?

Alicia says

With that ^^ being said 😉 I just read up on Beast Academy and I know this is something she would LOVE. She loves to read and learn, math has just been our. biggest struggle. And when I say struggle she still makes As when she is tested, it’s just the memorization she struggles with. I think concept review and understanding would go a long way with her. Would you recommend RighStart or would Beast Academy be a good suit for her to jump into? I appreciate your time and honesty. As of last week we have put down her Abeka book and started working on memorization again :/

Kate says

Oof, skip-counting to solve every division problem is a killer! Spending some time getting those tables solid is a good idea.

At this age, I agree with you that jumping into RightStart probably doesn’t make sense. The manipulatives kit are a big investment, and you’d have to sink a lot of time into teaching your daughter the RightStart approach. Instead, Beast sounds like it could be a great fit for her. For placement, you’ll likely want to go back a few books so that she can dive into problem-solving without also learning all-new material at the same time. (In fact, how about going back to 3B for all the fun multiplication practice. Then, if you both like the overall approach, you can jump ahead to a level that feels like it’s more at her current skill level?)

Also, I hope you don’t mind if I offer a little unsolicited advice on mastering the multiplication facts. (I’m just starting work on a book on the x facts, so it’s a topic I’ve been giving a lot of thought.) As much as possible, focus on teaching her to use the facts she already knows as a stepping-stone to the facts she’s not sure of. For example, 8×6 is often a tough one for kids, so encourage her to first do the easier 8×5 (40) and then add another group of 8 to find that 8×6 is 48. Also, help her master the easier tables before tackling the hard ones. (My favorite order is x1, x2, x4, x5, x10, x3, x6, x9, and then the last few hard x7 and x8 facts. Keeping track of what she’s learned on a multiplication table will also help her see her progress.) Hope this is helpful, and best of luck!

Cathy says

Hi!! Is RS something that can be taught to two children at once? Mine are 15 months apart and my son is younger but seems to do well in math and while my daughter is older, life circumstances have held me back as a teacher with her in this area. We currently use horizons and I struggle to teach the concepts and simply rely on the worksheets to go through the learning. They are only about a half a semester apart in their horizons. She is 1st grade and we started book one for first grade around thanksgiving and he is about half way through the kindergarten book 2. I’m thinking about scratching horizons this semester and just starting them both together in level B of RS (assuming after taking the placement test they both are there) after reading about it. Will having not done level A hinder them with starting in B? Or could we start in A and work quickly through? I don’t want to confuse them by switching to a new approach with new manipulatives but I love the idea that RS has the scripted guide and helps me as teacher teach the concepts. Thank you for your reviews on all of these programs!!

Kate says

Hi Cathy,

Yes, RS can definitely be taught to two children at once. (And in fact, it can be kind of handy, because you can have the kids play the games together!) As far as placement goes, definitely do the placement tests and then feel free to give their customer service a call. I’ve heard they’re extremely helpful and are excellent at helping families get started well. You’d likely be fine starting in B, since B reviews a lot of the core concepts of A at the beginning.

Alysa says

I just found you tonight and am so thankful for your willingness to help and share resources. Your approach is such a breath of fresh air! I bought RS last year when homeschooling my oldest for kindergarten but gave up because we both had a difficult time with the spiral approach. We both felt like the lessons jumped all over and I couldn’t always tell why we were doing things. In theory I really love the way they teach math but in practice it was confusing. Do you have any advice or know of any resources that utilizes their way of learning math but presents it more systematically? Thank you so much for any help.

Kate says

Hi Alysa, Singapore Math uses a similar conceptual approach to math, but in a more systematic and mastery-oriented way. Here’s my full review to see if it might be a better fit for you.

http://kateshomeschoolmath.com/singapore-math-buying-guide/

Maria Posh says

Hi Kate,

You have experience with both Right Start Math and Singapore math. How well do the manipulatives used in Singapore math substitute for the ones in RS math? I already have the Singapore ones and do not want to duplicate. What manipulatives in RS math are absolutely necessary that Singapore does not have?

Kate says

Hi Maria,

Unfortunately, most of the RightStart manipulatives are must-haves for implementing the program. The abacus and place-value cards are essential for the place-value concepts. The fraction chart is necessary for their approach to fractions, and the geometry tools and drawing set are used heavily for geometry. You can skip the 3-d solids and math balance, but unfortunately that’s about it.

It’s a great program–but it sure does need a lot of stuff! Happy Math!

Kate