Increasingly, researchers are discovering the importance of early childhood and kindergarten math skills. In fact, early math skills are often a better predictor in later academic achievement, even more than early reading and attention skills.
A good kindergarten math curriculum can help students get more comfortable with math and logic from an earlier age, and develop stronger critical reasoning and hone a wider range of cognitive skills.
Saxon Math is one of the more popular math curricula out there for both traditional and homeschooling families. A rigorous and more traditional approach to teaching math, many students have found great success using its methods.
In addition to its well-known line of elementary, middle and high school math textbooks, the company has also created a line specifically for kindergarten to grade 4 that has become popular in recent years.
If you have a kindergarten age student and are interested in starting them off learning math the Saxon way, then read on as we explore what the Saxon Math Kindergarten curriculum is all about.
What is Saxon Math Kindergarten (Saxon K)?
Saxon Math is a popular math program developed by John Saxon in the early 1980s.
It is a back-to-basics math method that is known for its greater focus on math facts, drill and computation compared to other, more conceptual math curricula.
Saxon combines incremental skill development and a process of continuous review during lessons that gives students ample practice at math problems that can lead to better results.
While perhaps better known for its various lines of textbooks covering grades 5-12, Saxon also has a separate curriculum aimed at kindergarten through grade 4: Saxon K-4.
Although slightly different from the main Saxon curricula, Saxon Math’s Kindergarten program (or Saxon Math K as it is often called) aims to bring Saxon’s respected math curriculum to early learners and help them develop key skills and comfort with math from a younger age.
The complete program consists of two books- a teacher’s book and a meeting book- and a manipulatives kit, which is somewhat unusual for Saxon as it is largely more known for its drill and more computational practice.
What does Saxon K teach kindergarten students?
The Saxon Math K curriculum contains about 112 lessons spread out over just under 500 pages and these are divided into about 11-12 lessons per month, covering a traditional September-June school year.
Overall, Saxon offers a fairly comprehensive math curriculum for kindergarten students and meets and occasionally exceeds what might be expected from a standards-aligned kindergarten curriculum.
The curriculum begins with basic pattern recognition, reading and writing numbers to 30, counting to 10 and pattern recognition before moving on to more advanced topics such as addition and subtraction, counting by 10s, matching and ordering sets, intuitive division of objects and sorting objects by properties.
Some of the topics and concepts covered in the Saxon Math Kindergarten curriculum can be found below, which should give an idea of the program’s comprehensiveness:
|Number recognition||Number reading and writing to 30||Count by 1s, 2s, 5s, 10s|
|Counting backwards||Number matching and grouping||Identifying number order|
|Ordering 1, 2 digit numbers||Representing 2 digit numbers with manipulatives||Identify equivalent sets|
|Estimating and counting objects||Representing equivalent forms of numbers||Comparing sets, exploring concepts of fewer, more and same|
|Identifying sets with more or less||Identifying numbers from pictures and drawing representations||Introduction to number lines|
|Introducing even and odd||Ordinal positions||Introducing addition|
|Manipulative use to represent addition||Solving basic addition problems||Introducing subtraction|
|Manipulative use to represent subtraction||Solving basic subtraction||Essential division|
|Understanding division with objects||Acting out division with manipulatives and objects||Fractional objects|
|Understanding fractions as parts of whole||Using math concepts with money and coins||Seasons|
|Dates||Parts of the day||Clocks and time|
|Sorting objects by size, length, weight etc||Collecting and sorting data||Problem solving skills and strategies|
|Graphing and pictographs||Estimation|
What are Saxon K lessons like?
Saxon Math K is, perhaps unsurprisingly for a math curriculum aimed at kindergarten students, an instructor-led math program.
That is to say that parents (or teachers) are expected to work alongside their students and work through the lessons and problem sets together, with the student really only left on their own during practice and assessment.
This means that Saxon Math’s kindergarten program can be considered fairly time intensive if you’re a homeschooling parent, but not too much more so than other math programs aimed at such young students.
After all, most 5-year-olds are not exactly known for their self-study habits and discipline.
That said, Saxon does make a considerable effort to make teaching its program as easy as possible, which is useful for new or inexperienced homeschool parents.
To do so, Saxon has made its kindergarten Teacher’s Manual very scripted.
This means it offers parents very detailed instructions on how and when to conduct lessons, to the point that there are times where it will tell parents exactly what to say and what to do when teaching a lesson.
The Teacher’s Manual even pre-divides lessons by days of the week, assuming a 5-day lesson plan.
It’s true that some parents may chafe at being told how to conduct a lesson to this degree, but for those who are unsure of their own math skills, or who haven’t homeschooled before, Saxon K can really carry parents and students through lessons without much of a hassle.
And the way it does so is, in our opinion, pretty well designed for kindergarten-aged students to follow.
Although the language is perhaps a bit more formal than a parent may naturally use with their child, the lessons do a pretty good job at explaining some pretty abstract concepts and skills to young children (explaining place value can always be tricky with young kids), and do make using the associated manipulatives (plastic clocks, tangrams, counters, etc.) very easy.
When it comes to the actual lessons, Saxon Math K follows a pretty and well organized standard format, which makes it quite easy to teach with a little practice and gives students a sense of consistency that can go a long way in relieving any anxiety and stress they may feel.
Lessons begin with a meeting, which sets up the lesson and usually includes a discussion and demonstration of the topics to be covered, as well as some basic practice and review of previous concepts.
Parents and students then move on to the actual lessons, which make up the bulk of the week (3 days or so) and teach the concepts being covered. Each lesson is usually about a page or two long and is fairly brief and to the point.
Lessons often involve the use of manipulatives or other hands-on activities, letting kids act out and work with math concepts in a more concrete way, so parents can expect a lot of moving around and tactile learning, which is preferable for students at this age compared to trying to sit still and looking at worksheet and number charts.
Finally, students move on to an assessment, where they work on the skills they’ve developed through practice problems and exercises.
Unlike the higher grade levels, there is no student workbook with Saxon K.
As such, being that most students in kindergarten are still working on their writing skills to begin with, these are usually practical assessments where the parent asks the student to perform some kind of relevant skill demonstration, such as folding a paper into quarters or arranging certain colored cubes in a row.
At the back of the book is a recording form where parents can keep track of their student’s responses and progress in a more organized way.
How does Saxon K compare to other Saxon Math programs?
For parents that are a little more familiar with the Saxon series of math books, Saxon K largely teaches the same way as other Saxon grade levels, but does have a few noticeable differences.
Perhaps most noticeably, the core “Saxon method” of teaching math is still used even at these lower grade levels.
Saxon’s Kindergarten program still includes the incremental learning and continual review process that Saxon is known for.
That is, complex topics are broken down into smaller lessons that build upon each other, and old and new concepts are reviewed frequently over time, using repetition and practice to give kids a lot of opportunity to solidify their math skills and knowledge.
This repetition can be especially important for kindergarten age students, as their long term memories and ability to reliably recall information are often still developing.
One noticeable difference in the way Saxon Math K teaches is that, as mentioned above, it is far more of a scripted program than other Saxon Math programs, to the point that there is actually a script and explicit directions parents can follow to guide them through the program.
Similarly, while there is still a good deal of emphasis on drill and learning math facts, perhaps owing to the much more limited math skills and experience of the intended age group, Saxon Math K offers a more guided exploration of math concepts than the typically procedural approach of upper level Saxon Math programs.
The program’s lessons do explain why math is the way it is and the logic behind its concepts, rather than just emphasising how to do the math.
Additionally, Saxon Math K adds a hands-on component to its learning, something that does exist much in the main Saxon program.
Overall, Saxon’s Kindergarten lessons have a good amount of integrated manipulative use and examples that we feel can really help parents convey sometimes abstract concepts to a 5 year old.
Finally, while Saxon Math is usually known as a rigorous and sometimes even advanced program compared to other math curricula out there, Saxon K is a little slower paced, with a curriculum that is set up to reflect national math standards rather than setting its own pace and sequence.
Consequently, while it does touch on basic addition, subtraction and division, users shouldn’t expect a precocious introduction of math material, as they may in other Saxon courses, particularly in its numbered books.
Why use Saxon Math for Kindergarten?
There are a few reasons why we feel parents should consider Saxon Math for their Kindergarten-age student.
To begin with, Saxon Math K is a pretty comprehensive and thorough math program that we feel does an excellent job at developing key mathematical thinking and skills for this age group.
The curriculum covers all the topics of a standards-aligned curriculum and more, and the learning and examples are solid, written in a way that really helps young kids come to grips with some of the more abstract concepts of early math.
Similarly, Saxon Math K makes frequent use of manipulatives and does an excellent job at integrating their use into lessons, with easy to understand and sometimes fun exercises and practice.
Finally, although some parents don’t always like a heavily scripted program, Saxon Math’s teacher’s manual makes it extremely easy to teach from.
While kindergarten math can be quite simple to adults, it can sometimes be hard to clearly convey certain ideas and concepts to a small child who has a far more limited understanding of the world.
This problem can be exacerbated even further if a parent doesn’t have much experience teaching younger students (or teaching at all), and can lead to a far more frustrating experience for both parent and student.
By providing exact dialogue and detailed instructions, Saxon Math K can guide parents easily from lesson to lesson.
And, at the very least, parents will have something they can lean on and refer to if they run into any trouble explaining a concept.
Note: All prices current as of writing and are in USD.
Saxon Math K requires two books as part of its curriculum set: a Teacher’s manual and a meeting book. It also requires a manipulatives set, which is usually sold separately.
Although often subject to discount, a Saxon Math K kit (teacher’s manual and meeting book together) can cost about $100.
The manipulatives kit (sold separately) costs around another $85.
Ultimately, Saxon Math K isn’t the cheapest kindergarten math curriculum out there.
That said, it is comprehensive, in-depth, easy to teach and a proven resource for teaching math that, all told, it is more or less in line with other competitors of similar quality and renown, such as Singapore Math and Math U See.
Pros and Cons of Using Saxon Math for Kindergarten
Saxon Math K is Comprehensive and Well Written
With 112 lessons that cover everything from simple counting to addition, subtraction and even simple division of objects, Saxon Math K is a comprehensive and fairly thorough kindergarten math curriculum.
All told, it offers a curriculum that we feel meets and even exceeds national standards for math and should serve as an excellent curriculum for kindergarten-age students.
Easy to teach, open and go curriculum
Saxon Math K is a heavily scripted program, with explicit and detailed instructions on how to teach certain concepts to young kids and even providing an exact dialogue to use.
Similarly, the textbook comes pre-divided into a standard school year with a five day lesson plan, and includes a ready to fill out assessment guide.
As a result, Saxon Math K doesn’t require much in the way of preparation and, overall, is very easy for even brand new and inexperienced homeschooling parents to use successfully.
Lessons are consistent and structured
Each lesson in this curriculum more or less follows a standard format of meeting, lesson and assessment.
This structure makes lessons not only easy to teach, but provides a sense of consistency for students that can help relieve possible anxiety and stress about math lessons.
Plenty of review and practice for better retention
Saxon’s method of teaching math usually involves a good deal of review and practice, and Saxon’s kindergarten curriculum is no different.
By more frequently reviewing past concepts alongside current learning, students have more of an opportunity to reinforce their learning, connect math concepts and strengthen long term memory.
This increased repetition can be particularly important for kindergarten-age students as their long-term memories and ability to recall information are still developing.
Use of manipulatives for hands-on learning
Younger children can have a hard time grasping abstract ideas.
Hands-on learning can make math a little easier for them to understand by using manipulatives and other objects as concrete representations that students can touch, feel and explore. 3
Saxon Math K makes extensive use of manipulatives and provides detailed instructions on how to use them in lessons to make the most out of them to help kids grasp concepts more effectively.
Some parents may not like the heavy scripting
While Saxon Math K’s scripted program makes it very easy to use, essentially it is an open and go curriculum for kindergarten math, some parents may not appreciate the precise dialogue and instructions it provides.
Some, particularly highly experienced instructors and those who started homeschooling their children in order to have more educational freedom, may feel it to be a little constricting and micromanaging.
Manipulatives aren’t included
Saxon Math K uses manipulatives quite a bit to help students better understand certain math concepts.
Their use is not only well integrated into the lessons, but these manipulatives are actually required at this level.
Unfortunately, they are also sold separately, which is something of an inconvenience.
Saxon Math has a well-deserved reputation for providing math curricula that can help students develop strong math skills and math fluency, often leading to more positive outcomes in the long term.
Although a bit different than Saxon lines aimed at older grades, with its comprehensive and easy to teach curriculum we feel that Saxon Math K can be a welcome and effective addition to those looking to teach kindergarten math.
In fact, if you’re looking for an in-depth, hands-on, open and go curriculum, and don’t mind its heavy lesson scripting, Saxon Math K may be one of the better kindergarten math options out there.
For more information about Saxon Math, math curricula and learning, you can check out the following resources:
About the Author
David Belenky is a freelance writer, former science and math tutor and a tech enthusiast. When he’s not writing about educational tech, he likes to chill out with his family and dog at home.