How I Supplement Abeka Arithmetic Curriculum with a Living Math Charlotte Mason Style – Going Beyond the Textbook

How to Use Abeka's Arithmetic

There is great comfort in having a curriculum. It tells you exactly what you need to teach, how to teach it, it gives you a thorough scope and sequence; it basically helps you stay on track. How very much needed is to have that peace of mind that we are teaching exactly what needs to be covered for their grade level! 

Part of what I love about homeschooling is the flexibility to draw on different curricula and teaching methodologies. Back in college, I learned that to teach Math, especially the younger years, students should engage in using manipulatives (very much like Ms. Mason said). Also, I learned that it is best to help students make connections between what their learning in their books and apply it to real life. Moreover, they need to see how simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division help them solve everyday problems. 

I believe that you can really use any curriculum to fit the methodology you are looking for. The curriculum is to be your guide, your compass…it’s what keeps you on track that you are teaching exactly what children should be learning at that level. 

Once you come to terms with that, you can use the curriculum in any way you wish. I choose to use our Abeka curriculum to fit into what is my preferred method of teaching.

Best Features about Abeka’s Arithmetic Curriculum:

  1. Colorful, simple-straightforward lessons.
  2. Lessons are short (just like Mason said they should be) – 3 to 5 min. Some things might take just a bit more, depends on the child. 
  3. Seatwork is only one page, or 2 pages from 2nd grade and up. 
  4. It uses a Spiral Curriculum – “A spiral curriculum can be defined as a course of study in which students will see the same topics throughout their school career, with each encounter increasing in complexity and reinforcing previous learning.” (Google)
  5. There are story problems that need to be done orally (just like Charlotte Mason said there should be)
  6. Learning facts (there is drill, but it is so quick! and fun! builds confidency)
  7. Very easy to follow.

For example: How many chairs do we need to sit everyone? How many people will want to each cake? How many slices of pizza will everyone need to eat?

The past three years I have only used Abeka’s Arithmetic curriculum to teach Math grades: Kindergarten, First, and Second. As we are approaching Third, I have already ordered Abeka. We are sticking to it.

When you give it a quick glance or when you ask around, it may seem like it is far from being Charlotte Mason-friendly. Yes, it does use worksheets. Yes, it has speed drills. Yes, it has tests.

Yet, it is so much more than that.

Why use Math Manipulatives with ANY Math curriculum: 

From a young age, children need to visualize the concepts they are learning. It helps make the connection to learn to think abstractically. They need to see it first for it to make sense.  We all have to start somewhere.

Manipulatives help you present the material (concepts) in a concrete manner. 

Recommended Math Manipulatives to use with ANY Math curriculum: 

As you prepare to teach a Math lesson (regardless of the curriculum), I encourage you to keep a box with manipulatives. These are my preferred ones:


    1. Popular Playthings Playstix (150 pieces)
    2. Mathlink Cubes – Set of 100 Cubes
    3. Fraction Tower Activity Set
    4. Base Ten Blocks Set
    5. Gear Clock
    6. Teacher Created Resources Foam Fraction Circles (20611)
    7. Manipulative Kit (Saxon Math – very complete)

Additionally, you can use items available at home such as buttons (I get some at Joann’s and Dollar Tree), counters, rulers, beans, etc. Anything you can get your hands on and use for counting. 

What about Living Books?

Let children enjoy math outside of math. How about reading picture books that teach math indirectly? There are MANY picture books that are fun and help expand the understanding of these new concepts. Take advantage of them. Set them in a basket or leave them on the table and your little ones will come to them. Let the books help you teach. 🙂 

We have read through many living books to learn math. It has been fascinating. A living book is NOT a textbook. A living book is one that makes the story or concept come to life. It is engaging and it works! 

This post has the names of some of the math living books we have read the past few years. I do need to update it, though. Hope you find it helpful. 

Another series of books recommended in many homeschooling groups is Life of Fred. It is Math told in a story format. There are sales for it all the time in sites like Educents,

Another series of books recommended in many homeschooling groups is Life of FredIt is a stand-alone curriculum for math, but I want to give it 

So you see, Math should be expected to go beyond what is presented in a book. This is why I believe that you could make any Math curriculum fit into the approach you desire. In my case, we align our Abeka Math to Charlotte Mason’s approach as closely as possible. 

Keep a Journal – Math Notebooking 

We keep a notebook for writing down our thought process for solving problems, strategies learned, math questions, ideas, etc. Pretty much anything they can think of that they want to record, draw about,  about Math.

Sometimes they write a food menu with prices and then add those up. Or write down about company coming over and figuring out a grocery list, how many chairs will be needed.

As long as it pertains to Math, it goes in the Math notebook.  

What Math curriculum do you use? How do you expand your Math curriculum?


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