## Sunday, March 17, 2013

### TouchMath 2nd Grade, a review

For the past several weeks, I‘ve been using TouchMath’s Second Grade program with my highly kinesthetic 7-year-old son, Peter.  We’ve been enjoying the change from our “regularly scheduled” math program, and I’d like to share with you how TouchMath’s unique approach has made arithmetic click for this special boy.
The heart of the TouchMath homeschool program is the teacher guide and worksheets.   Each unit is around 230 pages and contains the components you see listed above.  This year-long curriculum is divided into 4 units which can be purchased separately for \$59.95 each, or save by purchasing the whole year at once for \$199.95.

We also received a set of foam TouchNumerals (\$99), Student Number Cards (\$24), Flip Cards to correspond with each of the units (\$19/set), and the 2nd Grade TouchMath Tutor software (\$99).  These are considered to be optional extras.  I’ll show you in a bit how we used them to complement the teaching.

Other levels also available from TouchMath:  Pre-K, Kindergarten, and 1st Grade.

What does TouchMath’s Second Grade Curriculum cover?

The main topics from each unit are:

Unit A

• Adding and subtracting within 13, 20, and 50
• Adding and subtracting with regrouping

Unit B

• Understanding place value
• Counting, reading, and writing to 1000
• Understanding multiplication
• Adding and subtracting within 100

Unit C

• Adding and subtracting multiples of 10 and 100
• Adding and subtracting 3-digit numbers
• Reviewing multiplication

Unit D

• Time
• Money
• Measurement
• Interpreting data
• Analyzing shapes

For a complete list of concepts covered, see the TouchMath Scope and Sequence chart

Format and Ease of Use

The homeschool edition of TouchMath is delivered as downloadable pdfs.  Each unit is about 230+ pages and the files are pretty good-sized (from about 50 to 180 megs each).  The first 35 or so pages show an overview of the unit, how it fits into Common Core Standards, and other support products that are available (manipulatives, classroom helps, etc.).

This intro is followed by the meat of the program:  the modules (there are 6 in each unit).  Each module consists of explanatory pages for the teacher (semi-scripted, with teaching strategies and suggested hands-on and oral activities), followed by the student activity pages.

There are 2 types of activity pages (they are denoted by little icons), those that are teacher directed (apple icon) and those that are meant to be done independently (pencil icon).

All pages (aside from those in the intro) are black and white.  Activity pages will need to be printed, but you could easily read the teaching pages from an electronic device or simply read ahead and incorporate the strategies.

After reading through the intro and getting an overall feel for the flow of Unit A, I chose to print just the teacher pages that explain the lessons and the activity pages one module at a time.

The format of the pdfs is frustrating.  The pages are not simply consecutively numbered in the file (1, 2, 3, …), they have prefixes depending on the section (like M1A2  and M5_69), and sections are not linked to the table of contents.

I had to scroll through the document to find the pages I wanted to print, figure out the correct “name” for those pages to put into the print driver, and print (scroll once to find the name of the starting page, scroll again to find the “name” of the ending page).  That was the teacher’s pages, which I duplexed.  Then I had to do it all again for the activity sheets, which I printed single-sided.

For better ease of use, I would like to see:  a hyperlinked table of contents and pages simply numbered for easy printing.

Once I got beyond the technical aspect of printing, I found the teacher’s pages very easy to use.  They have kind of a “classroom-y” feel to them, but I didn’t have any difficulty reading them over ahead of time and making slight modifications in my teaching where necessary.  The teacher reading per activity page averages out to about half a page or so, keeping prep at a minimum.

Activity pages have a minimum of clutter, a small number of problems, and use large, clear fonts.  This is a big deal for my son, who has vision issues (and wears very special glasses).  Math books with small numbers or with too much going on drive him bonkers.

Truth be told, Peter would like to see some cute animals on the pages.  Or even some silly monsters.  But then, the unadorned pages do make it easy for him to doodle his own creations into being.

Most of the student activity pages are teacher-directed.  Independent practice pages are designed to review and reinforce the material, not to teach it.  However, that doesn’t mean you’ll be spending hours and hours working one-on-one with your student.

What makes TouchMath the Perfect Math for Peter?

Short lessons!  Ideally, you are directed to spend 2 to 2-1/2 minutes per year of your child’s age.  For Peter, that means 14-17 minutes a day on TouchMath.  Occasionally we’ll spend a few more minutes if he wants to, but I’ve come to realize that when I push him past that 15 minutes when he’s fully engaged, the struggle becomes too great for true learning.   15 minutes of full engagement is much more productive than 30 minutes (or more) of fighting.

But that’s an idea that can be incorporated into any math program.

#### The real difference with TouchMath boils down to one simple, yet remarkable idea---making numbers themselves concrete.

Many math programs use a concrete, to picture, to abstract progression (we’ve used a few ourselves), and they suggest using blocks and counters and all manner of manipulatives to make math concrete.

But TouchMath is the first one I’ve tried that actually makes the numbers themselves concrete!

You see, in this program, numbers aren’t just squiggles on a page.  They have TouchPoints.  Each number is counted (and added, subtracted, etc.) using its assigned TouchPoints.  You can read more about how this actually works on the TouchMath “How It Works” page (click the yellow dot on that page next to “TouchPoints and Computation” to get started).

You can do this with the student cards shown above, but for the really concrete child (Peter!), you can also use actual physical TouchPoints!  Brilliant!

Numbers higher than 5 have double TouchPoints.

This has been a critical thing for Peter.  He can add and subtract and even multiply and divide actual objects, but the thing that would constantly send him banging his head against a wall?  Dealing with numbers on a page.  Every single time he wanted to add or subtract, he needed to translate it into the concrete (usually he would draw little tick marks on the page or use an abacus or counters or something!) in order to make sense of it.

Now, he picks up TouchPoints, rearranges, and suddenly he is regrouping.

He can SEE that 5 + 7 = 12!

And lest you think that a TouchMath student will get “stuck” on using manipulatives forever and ever…this is where another aid comes in.

The Flip Cards are cleverly designed to give easy practice for every important fact that needs to be committed to memory.

We are currently working through the Unit A, set 1 cards, which cover the addition and subtraction facts 10-20.  As you can see, the “flip” side of each addition card covers the corresponding subtraction fact---as your child practices, each side reinforces the other side.

TouchPoints allow him to figure it out without spraining his brain.  The trick is to introduce just a couple of cards at a time and practice them for mastery.  As we “retire” cards that Peter has mastered (I put them in a separate stack for less frequent review), I add a couple new cards to learn.  It may seem slow, but we are making steady progress and I know he’s going to get there in the end.

As you can see, we’ve found the “optional” extras to be an important part of using TouchMath to its fullest.

I’ll be honest, math has not become totally painless for Peter.  We still have days he would rather not do it.  One of the things that makes it do-able, even in those difficult moments, is that every activity page is different and they are all short.  Asking him to do one, just one with me…that’s do-able for him.  He can accept it.

Plus, the lessons are teaching him strategies for making it easier to do the math…it’s not just boring rote learning.  The topics listed in the description sound, well, very very simplistic, and yet TouchMath is already teaching him to think algebraically (one of the things we are working on is solving for unknowns, in fact, one of the Flip Card stacks is Addition with Unknowns 1-20,  a whole deck of cards to practice solving for unknowns).

#### TouchMath not only gives him the concrete scaffolding he needs, it makes more abstract concepts more accessible.

So, obviously I like TouchMath…but, Does it Work?

The other day when Peter was doing that worksheet up there at the top….this one…

I almost cried.

The lesson teaches to use double math facts (like 5+5 and 7+7) to see patterns like doubles plus 1 or doubles minus 1 (7+8 and 7+6).

This kid, the one who used to stop and start drawing tick marks on his paper or tapping his fingers on the table to count out the sums…this kid saw the pattern instantly and answered the questions.

#### Yes, TouchMath definitely works for Peter.

The only “extra” we haven’t gotten much use out of is the software.  Peter’s pretty picky about computer programs, the sound has to be right, the visuals have to be right for him…so far he has not liked the TouchMath Tutor, but he hasn’t really gotten past the “pre-test” stage.  We’ve put this part aside for the moment, and may revisit it for extra practice in the future.

Overall recommendations:

I think TouchMath is a great fit for the highly concrete kid.  I like the strategies it teaches, the ease of use, and the short lessons.   I like that it goes beyond rote arithmetic.

Peter and I both love the use of concrete TouchPoints

I feel that the TouchNumerals and Flip Cards are necessary “extras” for Peter.  I also like the student cards, as they are compact and easy to take with you, but we found the software to be unnecessary.

Peter’s number sculpture

Did I mention that my 4-year-old also loves TouchMath?  She’s already learned most of the TouchPoints (I had to laminate an extra set of student cards for her).

Other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew are reviewing TouchMath, including the other levels, see what they had to say:

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

#### 5 comments:

1. Wow! Awesome review!

2. This is a great review! He sounds so much like my Cessa! She was using her fingers, talley marks, anything before TouchMath, too!

3. Thank you, ladies! Yes, Bethany, as we use TM more and more, the habit of finger counting becomes less and less for Peter. This has been such a good fit for him.

4. Excellent review. My daughter is a young seven year old and we're loving TouchMath. I didn't realize how much she didn't understand and how much this approach could help her until we started using it.

5. Hi Susan. We are thrilled that you and Peter enjoyed the program, and are always happy to hear and see ways in which TouchMath positively impacts students! Thank you for the informative write-up and wonderful photos of the program in use in your home. If in some small way we have helped Peter reach his potential in math, we are very grateful. Please let us know if we can be of assistance in the future.

All the best,
The TouchMath Team

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