The Charlotte Mason Elementary Arithmetic Series Book 1 Review

I want to start this review by stating that I am NOT a die hard Charlotte Mason follower. I love many of the Charlotte Mason concepts such as living books instead of textbooks and reading with basic phonics and word building. I however don’t teach things purely based off how Charlotte Mason did things. I like to find what works for my kids and I, regardless of the label or method used.

I feel like I needed to share that because my outlook may be perceived through a different set of glasses than one whose teaching style is 100% Charlotte Mason. I do want to say, that this book is oh so lovely and the aesthetics of it is partially why I purchased it. Yes, I confess! I am a sucker for hard cover non-consumables what can I say? It’s a weakness.

The other half of the reason why I bought this book (and the most important reason) is because my daughter has Dyspraxia and I was told that Dyspraxic kiddos are generally more kinestetic or hands-on learners. And, she can not write at this moment so the idea of an oral arithmetic curriculum seemed to fit.

I paid $54 for the book which is very expensive compared to my usual curriculum picks. But I justified it because it is way cheaper than RightStart Math and Math-U-See. It uses simple manipulatives such as popsicle sticks, buttons, coins, and beans which can be easily obtained. I liked how each lesson is open and go with no prep time except to gather the manipulative for that lesson.

20180731_140341Each lesson is broken down by a number. So the first lesson is number 1, lesson 2 is the number 2 and so on. Each lesson covers everything that has to do with that number. So lesson 2 starts out as identifying two objects in the room, write the number 2, counting 2 forwards and backwards and then proceeds to ask story problems like “1 bean and 1 beans makes how many beans?” “If I want 2 beans but I only have 1 bean, how many more beans do I need?” The child proceeds to use her beans to figure out the problem. There is also a section where the child does not use any manipulatives to enforce mental math.

This curriculum does not cover measurements, time, geometry, or graphing. It is purely numbers and intro to money. It covers adding, subtracting, counting forwards and backwards, place value, money, and skip counting.

All the lessons gradually cover all these ideas so you don’t have a single lesson on counting or a lesson on adding by themselves. When you get to lesson 10, you count to 10 forwards backwards, in groups of 5 and 2’s as well as add and subtract with all numbers leading up to 10. So your child will most likely not be able to count to 100 before learning 4+5=9 unless they were taught how to prior to this curriculum.



I feel like the author did a tremendous job putting this book together. It is beautiful and very well thought out. It is very much so everything you would expect from a Charlotte Mason math curriculum.

Unfortunately, I found out very quickly, though I love many of Ms. Mason’s concepts, I am NOT a true Charlotte Mason enthusiast. The idea of teaching my child to add and subtract before mastering counting to 100 or skip counting was very foreign to me. It just seemed to confuse my daughter. I feel like this curriculum was difficult to decipher placement. Parts of the lessons were too easy for her and parts were way over her head. By the time you get to #40, there are some parts of the lesson I feel are more appropriate for a second grader.

I feel like the book would fit very well with someone that likes to sit and have a one on one lesson with their child everyday. The idea of this book is so poetic, beautiful and engaging just like the style this method brings.

I am however not a very poetic mommy. I am a “let’s get this done,” short and sweet type of mamma. I like to teach but I want to be able to teach something, then let them have at it on their own. Math has always been a subject that was relieving to me since the kids can easily review math facts on their own after I explain to them what it means to add 1+1.

Every time I tried to sit down and do these lessons, it frankly just gave me a headache and threw my day off.  It was overwhelming to me as it is was one more thing I had to do. (I have 4 very young kids. The two youngest are rowdy bouncy boys!) I kept finding myself supplementing with material that wasn’t as labor intensive.

The fact is, I don’t have 15-20 minutes more to focus on just 1 subject with 1 kid when I already have phonics, reading and grammar lessons to implement.  What am I going to do with the others?

I feel like this book would better suit my kids if I just read it to them as we wait in line at the chiropractor’s office. (Good idea! I just might keep it in the car!) I’ll probably use it for a fun way to implement mental math.  I can see it being better used in that way.  If you only have 1 or even 2 kids, I think this method would be just fine. But for me, it is a little unrealistic.

This book reminds me of a modern Ray’s Arithmetic which is neat because I LOVE vintage books but for $54, it kind of makes me sick. I could have used that money on many other things.  Like I said, I will most likely use this as a great reference for story problem ideas or have my kids use it as a textbook later when they can read it on their own but I honestly could just have easily used Ray’s for free.

I have learned a nice big lesson after this purchase. More expensive doesn’t always equal better. I need to stick to my frugal ways and not be so zealous over pretty things. I MUST require self control and continue to find things that are cheaper so if I am disappointed in it or if it just doesn’t fit, I’m not out $50+. Like I said, the author did a fantastic job and I hope this review doesn’t sound too negative because it really is a beautiful curriculum. It just came down to style preference for me and what is realistic for a homeschool mom of 4.

Update: Lately, I have been using this book as a fun tool to implement mental math and it has been wonderful! I bring it with me to our chiropractor visits to pass waiting time. I also made a very simple board game where the kids land on certain spaces and then they answer a question from the book. This has been so much fun! And I am surprised how much the kids enjoy the word problems. Even though I would not use this book as our main curriculum, I have found ways to utilize it. Like I said in my review, I feel like my experience was purely based on my own personality and teaching style and not due to the content of the curriculum itself. But I have tweaked it to my liking and it has been a lovely tool to have in my homeschool stash.





8 thoughts on “The Charlotte Mason Elementary Arithmetic Series Book 1 Review

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  1. I wish I would have found your review before I purchased this expensive math book you have reviewed.

    I have tried to like this book, as it looks fetching and the concept appeals to me; however, my daughter has gone back over previous lessons a few times and she is not progressing as I would expect. She has broken down on page 66, where in question 19 the child/student is asked to tell how many 2 cent candies can be purchased with a dime. This tells me we need to review page 60 (Counting) on ways to make 10.

    Honestly, I am ready to pitch this expensive book. I have personally taught 4 of my children through high school and this book has too many holes and we are only a short way through this text. There are very few stepping stones from one concept to the next and very little review. I have put her into Ray’s for the moment, as I have that on my shelf and have used it with two of my children in the past for first through third grade.

    My daughter can count past 100 and she is six years old. She man measure with a measuring tape and tell inches. This she learned working in my husbands indoor, hand-tool workshop. I certainly could not have used this book to teach counting if I were expecting this book to contain all that a child needs to know to understand early counting.

    I may continue to use the book when my daughter has more of a foundation to tackle the money section; but there are too many missing math concepts in this book to use this as our core math text. It asks the child to jump into newer math concepts without having any foundation to be successful.

    This book will soon be on my get-rid of list. I am a Charlotte Mason Education mom; but this book does not impress me now that I have in hand.


    1. I agree with you. I am very disappointed in it especially for how expensive it was. Before I bought it, I was looking everywhere online for reviews but didn’t have much luck. I really wish it worked for us but I have learned my lesson. The free/cheap stuff is just as good! I absolutely agree there are too many holes and its too incomplete of a curriculum for its price. This book I believe would be better described as an “Addition and Subtraction” textbook and valued at about $20. I am trying to think of a way to sell it so I can gain back at least some of my losses. Thanks for sharing!


  2. I remember learning addition before I could count to 100. I think this then may be more common approach in Britain where CM herself was from than the US as that doesn’t seem strange idea to me. Thank you for the review article ☺️


      1. Hi Liz – looks like it’s been a while since you’ve written this review…any chance you’d want to sell your copy of cm elementary arithmetic?


  3. Thank you so much for this truly honest review. I am working through Book 1 with my six year old right now. We are up to number 7. The book has been working fine. I sit on the couch and read the problems and my son works them out while playing or if needed using manipulatives. I was wondering however if this curriculum will work out over time. One concern is that it seems a little boring after a while. Over and over you are introduced to the next number and then do a series of word problems. My other concern was whether or not my child was really gaining a good foundation in math. Does using money work for teaching place value? Does using a bundle of 10 sticks work for teaching place value? It is very poetic and I love that part, but more than poetry I want my son to gain a truly firm foundation in math. Thank you again for the review! I enjoy this curriculum but will also be looking into what else is out there and whether or not it makes sense to continue or try something else.


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