How to Choose the Right Level of Math with Confidence for Your Child

Learn how to choose the Math with Confidence level that best fits your child. Plus, answers to commonly-asked placement questions.

Children learn math best and enjoy it most when the material is at their “Goldilocks” challenge level: not too hard, not too easy, but just right. When it’s too hard, they feel frustrated and overwhelmed. When it’s too easy, they feel bored and unengaged. But when it’s “just right,” they’re interested, engaged, and confident!

In this article, you’ll learn how to choose the right level of Math with Confidence (or Preschool Math at Home) so that you can choose the level that best fits your child.

Preschool Math at Home

Preschool Math at Home provides short, sequenced, playful activities that give young children a solid foundation with the numbers to 10. There’s no workbook, so your child does not need to have any writing skills in order to start exploring numbers.

Children are typically ready to start the activities around age 4. If your 3-year-old is interested in numbers, go ahead and start trying out some of the activities—but be prepared to go slowly. You can introduce the activities at whatever pace best fits your child.

Kindergarten Math with Confidence

Most children will be ready to start Kindergarten Math with Confidence when they are 5 or 6 years old. Your child does not need to use a formal preschool math program before starting, but she should know how to count to 10 and hold a pencil.

A few 4-year-olds may be ready for Kindergarten MWC, but most won’t be ready for the number-writing on the worksheets or the more abstract concepts in the program (like categorizing shapes or writing two-digit numbers). If your younger child is interested in numbers, I suggest using Preschool Math at Home first. Then, start Kindergarten MWC at a leisurely pace. Make sure you monitor his level of engagement and frustration to decide whether or not he is mature enough for kindergarten math.

Most children are ready to start First Grade Math with Confidence when they are 6 years old. Your child is ready if she can:

• Count to at least 10 (preferably higher).
• Write the numbers from 1 to 10. (It’s fine if they’re crooked or she sometimes reverses them.)
• Identify basic shapes, such as circle, triangle, and square.
• Solve simple addition or subtraction word problems by acting them out with concrete objects.

Your child does not need to have used a formal kindergarten math program before starting First Grade Math with Confidence. If she is “first grade age” (typically 6 years old) and has mastered the above skills, she’s ready! First Grade MWC reviews many of the skills covered in Kindergarten Math with Confidence, so your child does not need to have completed Kindergarten before tackling First Grade.

Most children are ready to start Second Grade Math with Confidence when they are 7 years old. Your child is ready if he can:

• Count to 100 by 1s, 2s, 5s, and 10s.
• Read, write, and compare 2-digit numbers.
• Understand the meaning of the tens-place and ones-place in 2-digit numbers.
• Write simple addition and subtraction equations, and solve simple word problems
with single-digit numbers.
• Know most of the addition facts up to 9 + 9.
• Know most of the subtraction facts that involve subtracting from numbers up to 10
(for example, 7 – 4 or 10 – 6).
• Know the names and values of coins and identify combinations of a few coins.

All of these skills are reviewed in the first few units, so don’t worry if your child needs a refresher on a few of them. If your child is not fluent with the addition facts up to 9 + 9 or the subtraction facts up to 10, you may need to spend a little extra time on them in the early units. You’ll find Checkpoints in the book to help you assess whether to move on or spend more time on the facts.

• Count by 1s, 2s, 5s, and 10s to 1,000.
• Read, write, and compare 3-digit numbers.
• Understand place-value in 3-digit numbers.
• Know the addition and subtraction facts mostly by heart. (He should be able to recall the answers to most within 3 seconds or so. This varies depending on the child’s overall processing speed, so it is not a hard and fast guideline.)
• Know how to use place-value strategies to solve mental math problems like 55 + 37, 36 + 8, 90 – 42, or 74 – 6.
• Know how to add and subtract two- and three-digit numbers with the standard written process. (You might know this method as “stack math” or “borrowing and carrying.”)

All of these skills are reviewed in the first few units, so don’t worry if your child needs a refresher on a few of them. If your child is not fluent with the addition and subtraction facts but knows the rest of the skills listed above, she is probably ready to begin Third Grade Math with Confidence. Make sure to add 5 minutes of daily addition facts practice or subtraction facts practice to each lesson until your child becomes more fluent with the facts.

Important Note: The above lists of skills are the bare minimum a child should know before beginning each level. Math with Confidence covers much more than this in each book. See the articles on the individual grade levels for more on what your child will learn in each grade.

How does the scope and sequence for Math with Confidence compare to other homeschool math programs?

Math with Confidence is a “middle-of-the-road” program. It aims to help children develop both conceptual understanding and procedural fluency in math, so that children know both how to solve math problems and why the methods work.

The books provide lots of pacing suggestions, but you know your child best. You can always combine lessons if your child is grasping the material quickly, or spend a couple of days on a tricky concept.

My child is starting first grade, but he didn’t use a formal math program for kindergarten. What level should I get?

If your child is 6, he’s probably ready to start First Grade MWC. (But make sure you look at the skills listed above to check!) You may find you need to spend a little extra time on building number sense with the numbers from 0 to 10 in Unit 1. The Checkpoint at the end of Unit 1 will help you decide whether to continue on to Unit 2 or spend more time solidifying these core number concepts.

But…if you start and discover that your child is continually frustrated, resisting math lessons, or crying during math time, that means the book is too challenging for his current maturity level, no matter how old he is. In that case, I strongly recommend that you put First Grade MWC away until next year and use Kindergarten MWC instead. Every child’s brain matures at a different rate, and you and your child will both find your math lessons much more satisfying when your child is developmentally ready for them.

How does the scope and sequence for Math with Confidence compare to public school math programs or Common Core?

Math with Confidence is not aligned with the Common Core. Like most homeschool math programs, it meets or exceeds most CC standards, but it does not necessarily cover every standard.

For example, in First Grade MWC, children learn to add and subtract numbers to 20, measure length, identify shapes, and understand place-value. These are the usual first grade topics, covered by just about every math program. (Including curricula aligned with the Common Core.) But, MWC does not require first graders to reason abstractly about addition and subtraction or offer lengthy explanations of their thinking like many Common Core-aligned programs.

Practically speaking, this means MWC is roughly on grade level with most public-school programs. If you’ve pulled your child out of public school (or are looking to supplement after school), use the MWC level that matches their current grade. Or, if you expect to send your child to public school at some point, he should have no trouble switching  from MWC to a public-school program.

The first unit looks very easy! Is this really where my child should start?

The Math with Confidence books begin with several weeks of easy review to ease your child into the school year and start the year on a positive, confident note. You’re welcome to condense lessons or teach two lessons per day if your child knows the material well. Just be warned that children often forget more than we expect during the summer!

Also keep in mind that there’s a lot of important number sense development tucked away inside the first few units of each Math with Confidence book. For example, here’s what a few Amazon reviewers have said about the difficulty level of Kindergarten MWC:

• “I felt like it started off too simple at first, but now I see the base she is trying to build from the beginning and I am glad I stuck with it.”
• “DO NOT judge this curriculum based on flipping through the workbook. You will immediately think “this is too easy” or “behind grade level”. That’s because it’s NOT a workbook-based curriculum. It’s much more hands on which is what we were looking for.”
• “At first glance, I thought this program looked very easy and my 5-year-old would be way too advanced as she already knows how to add, etc. But I was totally wrong. Even just the first unit looks like they just teach numbers but lesson 1.2 is teaching pairs (count by 2’s) 1.4 is teaching 2 pairs in the number 4 (pre-multiplication) and 2.1 is teaching ten frames and finding the missing addend (early pre-algebra) 2.3 is teaching 5 pennies equal a nickel (early grouping/skip counting).”

Still wondering what to do?

If in doubt, go with the lower level. You may find that you whiz through it and can teach a couple lessons a day. But, unless your child loves a challenge, she’ll probably enjoy math time more (and learn more, too) if you make sure she has a solid foundation before moving to the more challenging level.

It can be so tempting to hurry our kids through. (I have to confess, I’ve definitely been guilty of this myself!) But there’s really no rush. Thinking long term, children can start algebra anywhere from seventh to tenth grade and still graduate on time with the credits needed to go to a four-year college. So, if your child is “behind” a grade level in his math curriculum when he’s seven years old, he has plenty of time to “catch up” and be well-prepared for success with higher-level math.

Happy Math!