Math for Young Children

You might have already read about my math plans for grades 3 and up: a combination of Strayer-Upton with Life of Fred. Once I figured THAT out, I began to prayerfully consider what in the world I would do with my Kindergartner!?

Strayer-Upton begins at 3rd grade. The recommendations prior to that are no formal math instruction. This fits in well with my better late than early/Charlotte Mason philosophy. Once again, I stumbled across a gem while reading discussions and blogs about this very issue. It’s called Arithmetic for Young Children by Horace Grant. This math program was published in 1880, so the book is free in the public domain. You can print, read it from your computer, download it as a PDF, or load it onto your Kindle or other eReader.  It is a simple, game-like program. None of it is written. The child doesn’t even SEE a number until the end of the book. Instead you read the items to the child, and math calculations are done by making marks on a dry erase board (slate work), using manipulatives (beans, blocks, counters, etc.), and by just plain thinking and imagining mentally. It goes through math facts up to 13 – no higher than that to avoid confusion. Please read through the introduction that Mr. Grant has given in the beginning of the book. It really explains the methodology quite well – along with the problem of most other approaches to young math.

After the introduction, some general instructions are given, and it is mentioned that this book is geared toward starting between the ages of 3-7. I’ve started it with a 6-year-old, and he finds it fun and challenging. The instructions say to go over each section of the book twice – sometimes 3 times (skipping anything too simple). I’m impressed at the simple math he is able to do in his head, and I love the use of manipulatives throughout. Here are some descriptions of the math problems we’ll be doing:

  • How many things are 3 chairs, 2 candlesticks, and 1 fiddle.
  • Try if you can find out without looking, and only by feeling, how many counters are in each of my hands. (Let 3 be in the left hand and 5 be in the right.)
  • How many legs must be put onto a dog for him to have 5 legs?
  • If a sailor had half as many hands as you, how many hands would he have?
  • Say the numbers from 1 to 7. Say them from 7 to 1.
  • How many “twos” can you put 8 counters into?
  • How many legs have 2 horses?
  • Two dogs that were fighting were run over by a coach, and each dog had two of his legs hurt. How many sound legs altogether had these poor dogs to hobble home upon?
  • How many ways can you arrange 3 counters or cubes?

There are 134 pages in all, and much of it is to be repeated 2 or 3 times. These math lessons are fun but REALLY make the child think and manipulate the numbers either in his head or with manipulatives. There is no writing (save for drawing marks on a slate), so there isn’t any stress for children who don’t like to write yet.

My goal is to use this slowly right up through the start of SU. If we finish the book before 3rd grade (might finish some time in 2nd), we’ll start reading Life of Fred daily until I feel he’s read to begin the SU/LOF combo I mentioned above.

I hope these posts have encouraged you that you don’t need expensive, fancy curriculum with all the bells and whistles to teach your children math. There is nothing wrong with using them if that is what the Lord has led you to, but if you’re not finding a good fit, don’t be afraid to look at these vintage texts because they did a lot of things right back then! 🙂


About wiseowlhomeschool

Homeschooling mom of 3 Work at home medical transcriptionist Christian Conservative
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10 Responses to Math for Young Children

  1. Pingback: Scheduling Ambleside Year 0.5 | Wise.Owl.Homeschool

  2. Michelle says:

    I appreciate this blog post on math curriculum and your previous one SO much. I’ve been researching incessantly the last few weeks to pick the best fit for my family. I’m looking on eBay for the Strayer Upton books but there seems to be a disparity–maybe different printings. Could you take a picture of your books and post them with your blog? Is the series called “Strayer Upton Practical Mathematics”? Or is it simply Strayer Upton? I’ve found a 6-set series, and also a 3-set series. Thanks for any light you can shed! ~Michelle

  3. Pingback: Wise.Owl.Homeschool

  4. That is terrific Michelle! Glad this helped!

  5. jill says:

    You rock. I think this is the answer to my prayers about math curriculum. Did I day you rock?!?!?

  6. tylermallett says:

    Thank you for this post. I was looking into SU math and I saw a book that seemed to come before the grade 3+ ones. I have a year 1 6.5 yo (trying to use CM approach). I was looking pretty seriously into MEP but it looked pretty involved. I will look at Arithmetic for Young Children, but do you know of a pre-book to the SU series?

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