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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ray's math, practical helps

Clarity, structure, brilliance; these are three words I would choose when describing the Ray's Arithmetics.

These are not glamorous books. They are not in color. There are no fancy diagrams. 

But my kids love them, and so do I. 

I have heard Ray's described as being "labor intensive," but nothing could be further from the truth! I suppose these books are not as easy to implement as the Saxon series for some students, but in some ways they are easier. 

For one thing, the instruction is direct, I would even venture to say that it is "economical" in a certain sense. Little time is wasted on anything that is not essential, and it is in the emphasis of the essential that strength is garnered.

The laborious part is at the beginning of instruction. But even this is pleasurable. 

The other day I was able to sit with my two daughters and teach them from the Primary book with a rare treat--candy corn! I simply spoke the problems to them and used the sweets as counters. I had their full attention! 

That's part of the brilliance. I can use any and all helps to reinforce concepts--there are no limits. 

For teaching to tell time I have an office clock-sign. This is not an official school-type clock, but it is perfect for the job. It's a real sign, used by real businesses; in fact, it's a left-over from one of my husband's old jobs. Using this communicates immediately that telling time is not just something one does to earn a gold star; it's a useful skill used in the real world. 

And here is a chalkboard. I made it by covering an old board with some chalkboard contact paper (much easier than chalkboard paint), and then screwing on an old clipboard clip. The kids love these when we do math together. There is something about working the problems out on a bigger surface that makes concepts become just a bit more clear. 

I have wipe-off boards and markers, but these things are always drying up and getting lost. Chalk is durable and cheap. Recently, I bought a whole box of it for just a dollar--something like 100 pieces! This way I never have to fret over markers getting ruined or lost--one less thing! 

You'll notice that there are ghosts of lessons past; isn't that just the charm of chalk? This particular exercise was all about finding the prime factors of a number. Ray's uses a method I have never seen in any other math book, unless I missed something. I love numbers, so learning this was a real treat--sort of like doing number puzzles over and over. I remember struggling with finding the primes of numbers as a youngster, and feeling so frustrated that I wanted to give up! The instruction I received was that one just needed to "guess" for the primes and use trial and error with nothing suggested as a way to keep track of your findings except for some silly "tree". Ray was too compassionate to be so vague; his methods are fun! 

Even if you feel a little overwhelmed and not sure that you can remember all of this math jargon, just jump over to Whyu and enjoy watching a slew of their videos with your kids--very enjoyable, professional and clarifying!


  1. We just started with Ray's. I was drawn to it because I am tired of throwing workbooks in the trash and the end of every year. But I was leary of the "old methods". new should be better right? But after reading your book I dicided to give it a whirl. I am pleased so far with the book, and thankful for your tips in this post. I think this will be a great school year! Thanks, Jillian

  2. Thank you for sharing these great ideas! I have a set of Ray's Arithmetics, and have been very frustrated with them. After looking at your examples and my books, I realize I have a different edition, or something. Mine don't have any instruction in them or how to do the problems, only a correct example. I am not a "numbers" person and this has been very frustrating. I would love to try whatever version of Ray's you have. Anyway, are you using the set from Dollar Homeschool?
    Thank you! Shelly