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Sansu Math, Grade 1 Set Review by Jeniffer Do Nascimento

Koyo Publishing
19535 SW 129th Avenue Suite 100
Tualatin, OR 97062

For the past couple of months, my five year old, Max, has been using Sansu Math’s first grade level curriculum. We received the entire set for review. The set includes two spiral-bound, hardcover teacher guides ($35.00 each), a softcover student text ($25.00), and a manipulative set ($18.00).  

Sansu Math is an adaptation of Japan’s most widely used elementary mathematics series. It maintains the depth and coherence of the original series but also provides supplementary material such as United States money and measurement.

The first grade focuses on a small number of topics, teaching each in depth. The relatively slow pacing allows students to develop important mathematical practices, such as reasoning, problem solving, and justification and representation.

The textbook includes 138 forty-five minute lessons and an overview table. The overview table is extremely helpful as a parent/teacher. It includes color codes for the content in each unit, by denoting the “most important” content with green bullets, and other important content with gold bullets. The idea is to know which concepts should be allowed more time to master, with additional practice if need be, so students develop the skills and knowledge needed to achieve proficiency and become successful learners in future grades.

The overview table is a wonderful tool when lesson planning. It gives you exactly the information needed to make lesson plans. The table includes the unit number and title, number of lessons in that unit, the pages where the unit can be found, main content (color-coded bullets), and new vocabulary and symbols.

Teacher Guide 1A covers the first half of the first grade and Teacher Guide 2B covers the second half. The overview table is also found in the Teacher Guides.

Let me stop here and say that sometimes I receive “teacher guides” that are hardly more than answer keys. These Teacher Guides, however, leave nothing to be desired.

Each unit of the Teacher Guide begins with a unit overview that provides a discussion of core mathematical ideas, explanation of the learning trajectory for the unit and topic, identification of key points, and potential difficulties in teaching the unit.

After the unit overview, each spread of the Teacher Guide shows the student textbook page on the left-hand side and a corresponding teacher’s page on the right. The teacher’s page provides specific pedagogical suggestion, including hatusmon (key questions or problems to pose to the students), anticipated responses, strategies to support student thinking, and assessment perspectives. The teacher’s page includes a beige section at the far right that provides further information about the teaching the lessons, such as additional explanation of mathematics content, pedagogy, background information, and examples of blackboard/whiteboard organization. Other useful aspects of the teacher guide include goals and materials needed for each lesson.

Assessment is guided by four different symbols in parentheses after each evaluation viewpoint. The evaluation viewpoints focus on the goals provided at the beginning of the unit. The four evaluation viewpoints are: (1) Interest, Motivation, and Disposition (IMD), (2) Mathematical Reasoning (MR), (3) Skills and Procedures (S&P), and (4) Knowledge and Understanding (K&U).

The mathematic tools used in grade one include: counters, counting blocks with 10-block trays, 10-frame dot cards, numeral cards, numeral die, model clocks, addition and subtraction fact cards, paper 10-block, toy coins, colored tiles, and colored sticks. Most of these items come in the Manipulative Set. Everything that is not included (as well as most things that are) can be easily found or even made with minimal work.

Sansu truly is a hands-on math. Students learn through story, manipulatives, comparing, discussions, and making connections. This has been such an eye opener for me. I never knew math could be more than just workbooks filled with drills and problems. Max (more importantly) and I have thoroughly enjoyed working our way through the lessons.

There are sixteen pages in the beginning of Teacher Guide 1A that acquaint you with the program and how it works. Sansu is an amazingly in-depth program that teaches children on many levels and through different senses. It is quite the opposite of the dry flash card/workbook take on teaching mathematics.

Max asks to do his math each day. He loves to grab his manipulative box, pencil, and textbook and get started with Mommy. He loves the characters, illustrations, and using the counting squares on his textbook. I appreciate all of the discussion prompts and guidance given in the teacher guide.

While there is writing of equations later in the books, there are fun, colorful illustrations throughout his book. Lesson one of unit one begins at the beginning of math, assuming that your child knows only the basics of counting to ten. It slowly builds concept on concept and before you know it, your little person is doing addition and subtraction on their own while playing with cars, Legos, or blocks!

Quite possibly the best part about Sansu is that it doesn’t feel like math. Mathematical learning is happening and knowledge is being gained while we tell stories about the animal characters, use our counting manipulatives, group the critters, and draw connecting lines with pencil. Sansu Math is by far the most Charlotte Mason-friendly mathematics program I have ever come across. He and I have enjoyed it so much, and I fully intend on using Sansu for the remainder of his elementary years.

-Product review by Jeniffer Do Nascimento, The Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2017