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Gattegno’s Math Method | Frequently Asked Questions

The following are common questions for getting started with Gattegno.  The answers also point you to helpful blog posts and resources. 

Is this a proven method of teaching mathematics?

Yes, Gattegno's method is a proven method for teaching mathematics. I didn’t invent this method.  It is a method developed by Dr. Caleb Gattegno in the 1960s-70s.  You can check out this documentary HERE that demonstrates the success and competency levels of young students using the method.  

Many math rod curriculums like Math-u-See, Miquon, and Mortensen are based on the work of Gattegno who first popularized the use of math rods. 

Which textbook should I begin with? 

It doesn't matter if you have a fifth grader or a preschooler, Gattegno Textbook 1 is where you start.  Often, struggling students lack the general ideas of mathematics. Gattegno starts with general ideas and then moves to specific ideas.  He called it the algebra before the arithmetic. 

General ideas of mathematics let’s students streamline specific ideas like math facts.   It also let’s students learn to manipulate symbols and numbers with greater ease sense they understand the why behind mathematics.

How long should I work through Textbook 1?

One of the first mistakes, I made was treating Gattegno Textbook 1 as a typical textbook.  For young children, Textbook 1 isn’t enough.   It isn’t supposed to be.  Gattegno made it to be brief.  Yet, he expected much of the activities to be repeated until the student demonstrated general competency. 

For young children (K-2nd), you should be in the book for at least a year.  For preschool children (ages 3-5), you should be in the book for two to three years. For older children (3rd-5th), they may breeze through the book in six months or less.  However, for children who struggle it may take longer. 

For more easy to use and expanded version of Gattegno’s Textbook 1 Activities, check out these resources.

What blog posts should I read if I want to see your material in action?

These blog posts are wonderful places to start if you plan to start with Gattegno Textbook 1.

If you want just resources on specific math operations, the following blog posts may be useful.  These guides walk you through simple language, meaningful task and playful contexts.

Where are the numbers?

Gattegno doesn’t introduce numbers until chapter 4 of Textbook 1.  There are  variety of reasons for this.  The first is so the student can focus on general ideas (transformations, odd, even, equivalency, fractions, etc.) of mathematics without the pressure of number facts (specific ideas).

Another reason is it reduces confusion when the student is learning new language to describe math ideas.  For example,

“Two is made of two ones.   One part is one-half of two.  The other part is also one-half of two.  Together, the two parts are two halves of two.”  

Boy, that is a lot of twos and ones that I imagine a young student misses the larger picture, the fractional relationship.   In contrast,

“Red is made of two whites.  This white is one-half of red.  This other white is also one-half of red.  Together, the two halves make the same length as red.”     

The color names give space for the student to hear the more important language, the fractional language.  It is hard for the student to distinguish the one from the one-half, but color names allow the student to distinguish with ease.

How is Gattegno a Charlotte Mason Inspired Math Curriculum?

The following blog posts delve into the common philosophies between Charlotte Mason and Gattegno’s Method