The Verbal Math Lesson, Levels 1 and 2

By Michael Levin M.D. and Charan Langton M.S.
Mountcastle Company
www.mathlesson.com

The Verbal Math Lesson is one of those books I wish I'd had earlier in the homeschooling process. As its name implies, it is a verbal program. Level One is addressed to ages 4-7, and Level Two is addressed to ages 7-8. In Level One the first lesson is titled "Working with Nothing" (the concept of zero). The last lesson (31 in all) is "Subtracting double-digit numbers ending in 0". The range between is implied and is pretty thorough. In Level Two, instruction begins with "Operations with numbers ending in 0" and wraps up with "Multiplication and division by 9." Level Two also does a good job of covering--in 29 lessons--the material between, including addition and subtraction of double-digit numbers. The website indicates that Level 1 can be used with elementary students and Level 2 with Middle School students. It seems that the material is therefore less targeted to grade-level or age than to skill sets.

The authors rightly state in their introduction, "Verbal math, also called mental math, is a practical and time-honored method of solving mathematical problems. Math done with worksheets often slows children down. Shortcuts and computational tricks learned by doing math mentally allow children to bypass much of the tediousness they experience with written math."

I wouldn't recommend The Verbal Math Lesson as a stand-alone program because it is more a straight-up arithmetic program, not addressing the whole subject of math (which would include teaching money, units of measurement, time, and more). Nor do the authors present these books as a stand-alone program. That said, this series fills a real need: most children benefit from doing oral/auditory math lessons in addition to written work. And some need their math to be nearly exclusively oral/auditory. (Of course, some also do their best memory work while marching up and down the stairs, but that's another story.)

I especially enjoy the spare presentation: the material is all there, in need of very little supplementation for the purposes of this series. It's not "fluffy" (or distracting); it does what it needs to do and moves on quickly. I look forward to seeing Level 3 of The Verbal Math Lesson, which will be targeting high school students.

Product review by Carrie Wilbur, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October 2008