Teach math with Ray’s Arithmetic

It’s just about impossible for us in the 21st Century to imagine how to use the school books left to us by those who lived in the 19th Century.

I know that I was at a loss when I first began to use Ray’s Arithmetics.

It was the same sort of feeling I get when one of my children hands me his iPhone so that I can make a phone call.

Where do I start?

After a little bit of help, and quite a lot of fiddling around, I finally begin to understand. Soon, I discover that I’m making my way around the device; it’s then that it actually becomes useful to me.

In order to understand how to use the Ray’s series to its fullest, I first perused them and then read through the instructions given in the teaching guide from Mott Media. I have always appreciated the insights of Ruth Beechick, and this provided enough encouragement to make a start, but there were still many questions in my mind.

For one thing, Beechick’s guide is mostly written for use in the “graded” classroom, in which the students are basically at the same level of understanding. I needed help to adapt these methods for tutoring each of my own children independently, in a way that simplified things for me and gave the children ample practice and attention at the same time.

I started out by working the problems with my children–of course this is a requirement of the Primer, but the Intellectual book was even more important for me to work partially through so that I could begin to see the genius in the very logical ideas employed there.

I had never been taught to think of numbers in such a refreshing way. It amazed me that any of us understand math at all. When I was in school it was all a jumbled mess; we were taught to just accept that numbers work the way they do, in the same way we are told to accept the distance of the stars or the orbits of the planets without any first-hand knowledge.

But numbers are not as remote as the stars and planets; they are part of our everyday lives. We should not feel as though they are distant relatives, but our closest friends, always at the ready whenever we need them.

Ray’s helps us to become more than acquaintances. As we are led through the various exercises, we begin to have personal communion with each operation. We are led, in a respectful manner, to see the relating of patterns which are repeated often, so that the enormity of the subject is minimized enough for us to grasp it.

Where as modern methods expect us to take great leaps of faith, Ray’s gives us logical steps to make our climbing easier. This is why these books, and those like them, can help even the worst math-phobic to enjoy numbers.

I also spent a great amount of my “surfing” time on the Internet downloading a collection of different math texts, all published before our “modern” era. I was still a bit in the dark until I discovered The Manual of Methods.

Reading through The Manual of Methods, a guide for the instruction of all of the Eclectic Learning series, was my greatest discovery. The missing pieces of the puzzle were finally handed to me. About the same time, I discovered A Primary Arithmetic, by E.E. White. This was actually an answer to prayer, as it provided an already-published source for the exercises suggested in The Manual of Methods. I also began to understand what made various books by other publishers acceptable or unusable (all of these resources and more can be purchased on a single disc from Dollar Homeschool).

I’ve since begun to print pages from these books, copy them, and give them to my children for practice. Since I have these files saved on the hard drive of my computer, they are available at any time. If I print them in full-page size, it is even possible for the children to write the answers directly on the sheets.

The teachers of the past did not have desk-top publishing to aid them, but I do!

After reading through the suggestions for teaching primary math, I began to get a vision for some flashcards–a totally different sort than I have ever seen.

I created two decks. The first one is totally without numbers. I chose vintage images of easily-recognized objects to represent each set of numbers; a butterfly for the group of “1,” pigs for the group of “2,” and so on.In this way a child could more easily associate each group of objects with the number represented. As the numbers progress, the flow of natural associations will easily lend themselves to the teaching of simple addition and subtraction if either of the groups is covered with the hand and then once again revealed.

The second deck is for the introduction of the symbols we use to represent the groups. I kept the same objects to represent each of the numbers.

I hope this is in keeping with the spirit of the authors of the Eclectic methods!

I also took the time to actually create the number charts (which I did not find in the Ray’s or the White’s books) that were supposed to be written on the board as documents that could be printed and copied. These could be used as many times as necessary until a child gained a full understanding of the number associations.

As further help, I also created some “fact wheels,” originally intended to help with the learning of multiplication, but with a blank set that could easily be adapted for addition, subtraction, and division. I was even able to create some handwriting sheets for numbers and number words.

Remember this is the result of weeks and even months of research I’ve done on the Internet learning how to use Ray’s Arithmetics the way they were intended to be used–discovering new resource links along the way. I’ve included these very helpful links to the aids mentioned here and some links to other free book resources as well in this product offering in order to help you learn, with me, how to teach these methods to your young learners.

It’s my hope that my research and helps will make it easier for someone else as they use these wonderful materials to teach their own children primary math!


Purchase the pdf here.

  • Mrs. J.

    I keep coming back to this post. :) I am falling in love with Ray’s. But I doubt myself almost every day. I love/hate it. My mom actually bought all of Ray’s and McGuffey’s when I was in 1st grade, but she used them as a lesson-a-day format I believe and I never made it past the first books. I grew up hearing that they didn’t work … so it is strange for me now to find they fit so well with my teaching philosophy. :\

    I wish I had a “rule of thumb” for when to move on. When they can do the lesson quickly? When they get 95% of it right? Right now I err on the side of “more” rather than less. I was pushed too quickly in the early years and my comprehension was never great in math. 😛 My 6yo and 8yo can actually do mental math faster than I can!!! I love it, I just wish I was more confident with using it ….

    • Sherry

      Dear Mrs. J.

      It is so interesting how our perspective can change, isn’t it? I am not sure about the “rule of thumb,” I suppose you will have to pray about it–at least that’s what I do!

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  • Rebecca

    I’m curious if you have used this through graduation age? We started in the primary today and i love Iit so far!:)

    • Sherry

      Dear Rebecca,
      Yes and no. We used this with two of our older children who were not destined to take higher math, but as soon as the elementary book was mastered we moved on to Saxon Algebra for our daughter who loved to do math “for fun” and could definitely go on to higher things if she so chooses.

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