RightStart Math, an award-winning elementary and middle school math curriculum, will be one of the vendors during the 2018 MHA Spring Convention at the Mall of America. The Expo will be open from noon-8 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 26, and from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 27.

Kathleen Lawler

The RightStart program uses the AL Abacus to provide a visual, auditory, and kinesthetic experience, and uses games to provide practice and review of the math facts. The lessons guide the teacher day-by-day and year-by-year, helping children understand, apply, and enjoy mathematics, according to RightStart Vice President Kathleen Cotter Lawler.

The program developer and author, Dr. Joan A. Cotter, is an electrical engineer and a certified Montessori educator, plus she has her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, and a Ph.D. in mathematics education. “She is one of the ‘smart math people’ who understands children and knows how to teach children – quite the combination!” stated Lawler.

Dr. Cotter’s son was struggling with math in elementary school. To help him practice math facts, she created math card games. A teacher suggested she write these games down; Math Card Games was her first book. It is now in its fifth edition.

Then, to help children she was tutoring, Dr. Cotter designed the AL Abacus. This abacus is grouped in fives and 10s for quick recognition of quantities. “Using various strategies on the abacus, the child gets the image of the abacus in their mind’s eye,” explained Lawler. “The second side of the AL Abacus teaches place value to the thousands in a clear, concise manner.”

Lawler has been involved with the company since the mid-1990s. “I love that I make a difference in the lives of children!” she stated. “I can help them understand and love math. I had a child recently say to me, after discussing a higher-level math concept, that it was ‘just one of those things in life that make you feel satisfied to know.’ Really? Does it get any better than this?”

The primary learning tool in RightStart is the AL Abacus, a specially designed two-sided abacus that is both kinesthetic and visual. The AL Abacus is grouped in fives and tens for quick recognition of quantities. The second side of the AL Abacus teaches place value to the thousands.

What sets RightStart apart, according to Lawler, is that the program doesn’t have rote memorization and drills to learn math facts. Instead, children find connections in math and play games to practice their facts. This puts math in a fun social setting.

Also, this program connects math with real life. “For example, have you every thought about the connection between fractions and music? Or fractions and money? Have you seen the patterns in the multiplication facts? It’s all there!” said Lawler. “RightStart Math brings it to light and let’s the child see the beauty of math.”

She added, “RightStart Math is a program that helps parents, regardless of their own understanding and love (or dislike) for math, teach their children the best way possible. Guided by someone that loves and understands math, the parent just needs to follow the lessons and watch their child flourish!”

RightStart addesses common misconceptions people have about math. “So often, people think that you just need to memorize the math facts. And that that’s all there is. There is so much more to math!” remarked Lawler. “There are connections that many of us just don’t see – RightStart Math will bring these things to light. The joy, excitement, and delight of math are right there! Not having that in your curriculum is so sad. Bring all the beauty of math to light with RightStart Math.”

Another misconception is that math is hard. Or that you have to have a “math brain” to understand math. “Not true!” said Lawler. “Anyone with good instruction and diligent work can learn math. RightStart Math has the lessons and materials to provide a successful math education in your home.”

Lawler will be presenting workshops twice on Monday, Feb. 26 during the MHA Brave Homeschoolers Convention. At 11:15 a.m., she will be presenting on how to teach math to children with learning challenges. “This is a great presentation for everyone – those with children with challenges and those with children with strong aptitudes,” stated Lawler.

She will also be presenting at 1:15 p.m. on playing math games. “These games can be incorportated into any curriculum,” commented Lawler. “Let’s give your children a reason to want to learn their math facts – so they win at the card game and win in life!”