Every time I try a new curriculum for one of the 3R's subjects (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic), I learn something new. Each presents a different approach and view that enriches me and helps me to look at concepts in a different way and understand them at a deeper level. I was interested in TouchMath because I had heard about it from a friend and now have a kindergartener coming up the ranks again. Lately, I've been focused on decimals, fractions and percentages, word problems, and negative numbers. So with my little ones, I'll have to shift gears and go back to the beginning again, especially with Anah.
Company Information: TouchMath is a multisensory math program that was developed over 30 years ago by Janet Bullock, who was then an elementary teacher. Ms. Bullock discovered a method using a series of dots paired with the written numeral to help those students who struggled with math to transition from the concrete to the symbolic stage. Now, TouchMath's mission is to meet the needs of children a variety of aptitudes, learning styles and cultures.
Product Reviewed: TouchMath Pre-K Homeschool program. This program includes 6 modules:
- Module 1A: Counting and Number Sense
- Module 2A: Comparing and Classifying
- Module 3A: Sorting, Classifying, Graphing and Patterning
- Module 4A: Identifying, Sorting and Classifying 2-D shapes
- Module 5A: Identifying, Sorting and Classifying 3-D shapes and Coins
- Module 6A: Representing Quantities and Numbers
For each module, there is an implementation guide, describing how to actually implement the program with your children, along with "Workmats" when your children are ready to move from the concrete to the symbolic.
All these modules and guides were in a PDF form that I downloaded onto my computer. Along with these, I received a set of optional TouchShapes (pictured at right), 3-D Numerals and Texture Cards, manipulatives that were designed to extend and enrich the program. The ones that I used the most with Jonathan were the TouchShapes. We didn't get to the other items, though I have a feeling that they are going to be really helpful with Anah when she gets there.
Price: $59.95 for the program. Optional manipulatives: TouchShapes were $30, 3-D Numerals were $79, and Texture Cards were $99.
Age Range: Pre-K, approximately ages 3-5 (or older/younger, depending on the needs of your kids). I used them for my 5 year old and started to use them for our 7 year old Down Syndrome daughter.
Parental Preparation: As this program seemed like it followed a very specific methodology, I spent a lot of time reading the material that came with it. This took me about several hours on a weekday afternoon. It helped me to get the big picture of what the program was about, the components, what various activity titles meant, etc. After using the program, I would probably say the same thing: plan to take some time to familiarize yourself with the contents. I don't think I would have been able to utilize the curriculum to its fullest without reading it.
After reading the program, I decided to start with Module 1 for both Jonathan and Anah. For each of them, I made a list of the activities as presented in the implementation guide. As each of them are at different stages, I had to modify some of the activities for Anah. I did not put down dates on my lesson plans, but simply made a list. That way, I would work until "time's up!" and then pick up with the next activity the next day. It kept me focused on the recommended time frame (which was 2-2.5 times the age of your child).
Some of the anticipatory sets and pre-activities required some simple household equipment. If I didn't have it, I would substitute. For example, one of the activities required rocks, smooth and rough. We don't have rocks readily available in our backyard, but I did remember a box of rocks from a rock collection in our science box. I tried to figure out what the concept was and used items that I did have that would illustrate the same thing. There were times when I didn't have things ready, but they were not difficult for me to gather them together.
Another thing I did in preparation was to print out the Workmats that were needed for each. For Jonathan, I used them as they were designed. With Anah, who is not at the writing stage yet, I printed them out to use the illustrations for flash cards.
In either case, I did spend some time making sure that I knew what the concept was, how it fit in the scope of the module (introducing with tangible objects, translating into written symbols, or reviewing at the end), and how to evaluate whether my child understood that concept. I also reviewed the vocabulary that was targeted for the module, which allowed me to use it whenever I could.
How We Used It: Before we started, just so that he would get it out of his system, I let Jonathan explore and play with the manipulatives. That way, he wouldn't have to play with them while I am trying to go through the lesson. He especially liked the TouchShapes and enjoyed making up pictures with them.
For Jonathan, I used the program pretty much as it was outlined. Every day, we would "do math" and I would go down my prepared list. Some days we spent our time in an activity. For example, yesterday, we started Module 3 on graphing and we spent our 12 minutes (about 2.5 times his age) sorting and graphing fruits and his stuffed animals. Today, we spent our time on the Workmats.
Using the implementation guide, I would go through each activity, using the questions suggested. For Jonathan, these concepts are not new, so they were more of a review. However, I found that with him, it was good to use math vocabulary to put words to the things he already knew how to do. For example, he knew how to count, but in Module 1 we learned that counting was a way to find out "how many" of an item he had. Counting to 10 was not a big deal for him, but we did learn that moving a counted item into a new pile will help him keep track of what he has already counted and what he hasn't. So even though he has been counting to much larger numbers for awhile, it was good to practice some skills of counting that seemed obvious to me but were not always so to him.
With Anah, we did not get far at all. I have a feeling that it's going to take a very long time for her to go through the list, which is exactly why I did not put dates on it. This way, my focus was on moving her to the next concept, not trying to get her to finish it in a particular time frame. As of this writing, we are still working on what the concept of "one" is. And even with that, I'm not sure if she is getting it. But there's no rush---which is one of the perks of homeschooling! I know she'll get there in time.
What We Liked:
- Jonathan is a very hands-on little guy. We had a lot of fun putting our animals in size order,
and sorting the shapes into yarn-shaped spaces.
These activities helped us to do something tangible before moving on to the next stage of symbolic learning, the Workmats.
- I appreciated the step-by-step activities in the implementation guide that helped us to use the program. I really didn't have to do a lot of thinking!
- The activities utilized things I already had at home, or were items I could easily substitute. They also suggested simple games that I could do with him even after we finish most of the unit. For example, in Module 2, he had a hard time identifying a common theme in a group of objects. We played a game by pulling together 3 different objects and seeing if he can identify what is common about them. This is something I can do over and over with a variety of objects.
- The Workmats were easy to print out and use. I like that I could use them for multiple children in our home.
- The TouchShapes we used were sturdy and allowed us to sort them in a variety of ways (size, color, shape and a combination).
- It was easy to take the original activity and go a little deeper with it. For example, when we were talking about tall and short in Module 2, we not only talked about what those words meant but how one object could be taller than another, but shorter than a third.
- I think the main benefit for Jonathan is establishing a good foundation of math vocabulary and skills for the future. We are currently working through the graphing module, which is not a hard concept for him, but it really is broken down into simple steps that take him from the concrete to the graphic.
- Though I did not get very far for Anah, I anticipate that this program will be excellent for special needs children. There is a lot of repetition and the tactile nature of much of the program will be very helpful for her as we work through it.
- As homeschoolers, I felt like we were able to proceed at a very doable rate. Most days, we would go over the 12 minute guideline, simply because Jonathan enjoyed it.
What We Didn't Like:
- If you don't want to spend a lot of time reading and would much rather jump right in, you may be frustrated with the amount of reading beforehand.
- The price tag for the manipulatives may seem a bit steep, but I did not find them completely essential for Jonathan. However, for Anah, I think they will be key to her understanding. Use your discretion: sometimes finding something that works is worth the price tag.
Jonathan and I really enjoyed working through this program together. After working through the first couple modules, I think I have established a rhythm in how to use it. We averaged about 2 weeks per module, which I think is going to give him a strong foundation for math in the future, more so than with my older children. My plan is to continue working through the preschool program with him for the remainder of the year. If you're looking for something enjoyable to do with your children that will help prepare them for math in the future, you may want to check out TouchMath. Be sure to look at the Homeschool versions!