Monday, January 25, 2021

Dimensions Math Pre-K with a Toddler Review


As you have probably already figured out, my little guy really has a thing for math. He loves counting, skip counting, counting backwards, jigsaw puzzles, place value blocks and other math activities (you can see my recent post of Math Activitives for Toddlers and Preschoolers here). However, he is only two and a half. He's got the fine motor skills and abstract reasoning skills of a two and a half year old. He is also like a puppy that you have to keep stimulated or he tears up the place. 

Therefore, I've been reading a lot about different methods for teaching math and started exploring curriculum. When my oldest was about 3.5, I adapted Right Start Mathematics for him (post here), but that didn't quite feel like the right fit for Archer at this point. I ended up reaching out to Singapore Math, explaining Archer's abilities and limitations and asking whether any of their materials would work. (I use Singapore Mathematics Standards Edition with my oldest, but we didn't start until level 4B). The very helpful customer service representative guided me to Dimensions Math Program. We decided, that while Archer might be ready for Kindergarten, Dimensions Pre-K was probably a good place to start. 

**In full transparency, I did receive a copy of the Dimensions Math Textbook Pre-KA and Dimensions Math Textbook Pre-KB. However, the opinions here are completely my own.**

The Curriculum:

You can see a full list of the scope and sequence of the Dimensions Pre-K level here. The curriculum is divided into two parts (A and B). Both parts have accompanying workbooks, as well as a teacher guide (there are sample pages on the linked webpages). I like that the textbooks and workbooks are all in color. However, since writing is still a developing skill for Archer (that he doesn't much enjoy), I opted not to get the workbooks. While I debated getting the teacher's guide, I decided that since we do a lot of "school" activities already, coming up with things that reinforce the lessons should be easy for us. Another family newer to early education would probably benefit greatly from the teacher's guides. We may start using them with higher levels in the future.

While Archer normally doesn't do "book work," adding in the textbook has gone well. I'm glad we went with the Pre-K level, because some skills feel familiar to him (color sorting), while other skills are new or are presenting in a way he has not seen. 

Sitting on my lap and flipping through.

The lessons in the textbook are very short. Each one is about one page front and back. On the bottom of first page of the lesson, there is an objective. Concepts usually start with some sort of scenario that provides opportunity to discuss what is seen. Then there is an opportunity for the student to answer questions or do simple tasks related to the concept. The lessons lend themselves to real world practice with manipulatives. Right now, we mostly do it with Archer sitting in my lap. He points to things and answers verbally, rather than writing. As we get further in the curriculum (and his fine motor skills improve) I will have him write more.

Here's an example:

Chapter 1 Lesson 5: Rough, Bumpy, Smooth

Objective: Explore textures and learn the word "rough."

So far, he has really liked it. When he sees the book, he asks to sit down and look at it together. While, I am trying to do them somewhat in order, at least in terms of supplemental activities, he often flips through it and finds pages that interest him, so we do those too. Right now, we're only getting it out a couple of times a week.

Honestly, for someone who just wants to open a textbook, look through the pages and have their student fill it out, just the Pre-KA textbook probably would not work very well. There is not a lot of instruction by itself. Also, kids learning these beginning concepts will need more reinforcement (hence the activity ideas in the teachers guides). I feel like someone wanting to use this with their Pre-K student (or toddler) has to be willing to do things with manipulatives and real world objects. That being said, I don't think there's a curriculum that could teach kids of this skill level without reinforcement. This real life reinforcement seems a little less necessary later in Pre-KA and in Pre-KB

Some of the tasks are similar to what you would find in a preschool workbook from a big box store (circle something, fill in something, draw lines connecting things), but these books go in a more systematic order.  They build skills in a way that will be beneficial later (using multiple ways to represent numbers, tens frames, etc.)

For us, I really like that it gives us some focus. We can look through the lesson together and then spend some time doing activities that reinforce it. It is simple enough that he can understand most of it, while still growing and getting used to the structure. My hope is that using these books will make for an easy transition into more formal math, when he is older and ready. 

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