I may have mentioned it a time or two, but I really like math. I don’t particularly remember liking math until Algebra I, but it has been one of my favorite subjects ever since. I had a terrific Algebra teacher who taught in a way that I could understand. That foundational understanding served me well in all my later math courses. Since I like math so much, I’ve always hoped that my children would share my interest, and I have especially sought math programs that promote understanding of math. I have also shied away from programs that were heavy on memorization, because something memorized can be forgotten, while it’s much harder to forget something that is understood.

Ray’s Arithmetic is the main math curriculum that was used in 19th century America and covers all the way from counting to Calculus. These were the books that were used in one room schoolhouses across the country.(Well, maybe not the Calculus. I don’t think that many one-room schoolhouses offered the higher level maths included with Ray’s, but these are the texts that would be used by students who had the opportunity to continue their education in those days.) When I found out I would be receiving Ray’s Arithmetic series to review, I didn’t expect to like the math. I thought that being old-fashioned it would be just drill and not promote mathematical understanding.

Um, I was wrong. I found that out quickly. As I was reading the Manual of Methods, I saw that this program was very big on teaching understanding first. Then drill. A beginning student should learn to determine the number of objects in a small group without counting. Then teaching of addition begins with concrete examples of putting objects together. All this is down without numerals or writing. This is a very interesting idea that I will be exploring more, especially with my 3 year old.

Dollar Homeschool has put the entire Ray’s Arithmetic series plus some interesting extras on a convenient CD-ROM. (Does any one else find that ironic?) The CD has a helpful index enabling easier navigation through the 38 books. The books can be printed or read from the computer screen.

What’s not to like about Ray’s?

I personally can’t figure out how to implement the program in our home. It seems like it would be very teacher-intensive to me. It’s so different from how we’ve been studying math, that it would be difficult to change. I also find that it’s emphasis is much different than a modern text. There is more time than I think is necessary in practicing adding LONG columns of numbers. I’m just not convinced that is worth spending that amount of time on, now that we have calculators that can easily do the calculations. I hate that math skills are so poor that many people can not do basic arithmetic without a calculator, and I certainly don’t want any of my children to end up in that position. But, adding columns of 20 numbers together just seems unnecessary. But the very things that I don’t particularly like, may be the exact things that others would most appreciate about the program.

At \$59 total, this has to be one of the least expensive ways to purchase an entire math curriculum. (That’s definitely something to appreciate!) View the list of books included on the CD and visit Dollar Homeschool to purchase Ray’s Arithmetic. While you’re there, be sure to read What makes the Ray’s Arithmetic a good math curriculum, and why is it a good choice for my children?.

Disclosure: This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are our own.