Sunday, July 24, 2011

What is CSMP Math?

After being hung up with various illnesses and getting behind with math, we have finally finished! It was nevertheless a very fun and exciting first year with CSMP (Comprehensive School Mathematics Program). It is a very dull and boring name for a program that maintains that "the usual drill techniques are, unfortunately, dull, stultifying and sometimes even counterproductive." In other words, it designed to be fun.

I understand that CSMP was created during the "Space Race" era in order to help American students to better excel in mathematics. Apparently, some research was done to determine how children best learn math, and CSMP is what they came up with. The now defunct program has been made availabe on the Internet for free. That's right! It is absolutely FREE!

I began looking for a new program for Grasshopper when she was 5yo. We were using a worksheet-based math program, and all she could say about math was that she hated it. Yet I knew that she was good at it. So why not do something to make it more enjoyable?

I was first introduced to CSMP at Mark's site. Mark has taken his first child all the way through 6th grade with CSMP, and he is nearly finished with the second. There were two things that really drew me to the program: (1) Its use of stories and discussion, and (2) its introduction of traditionally higher level material to younger children on their level.

Following is a description of the program:
  1. It is a spiral program. But the spiral is a fairly loose one. And each time a topic is revisited, it is also built upon. So there is repetition built in to the program, but the child never has to repeat the exact same lesson or worksheet. Consequently, I never felt that I should skip an entire lesson. There were portions that I skipped if I thought it was overly repetitive, but there is new material in every lesson.
  2. The manual is very well scripted. I always know exactly what to say, what to write and what to do. However, I never feel tied to the script. If Grasshopper wants to delve more deeply into a topic, we do. And if I feel that the material is too easy, we skip it.
  3. The program uses the Socratic method, meaning that the teacher does not lecture the students or even demonstrate the material. Rather, the teacher guides the students to figure out the concepts on their own.
  4. Mental math is very much emphasized.
  5. CSMP seeks to integrate math with other subjects and areas of life. Each lesson contains suggestions for supplemental assignments, such as books to read, writing assignments, center activities, etc.
  6. The program is teacher intensive. Every lesson is to be taught by the teacher. Worksheets are merely supplemental and cannot take the place of the lesson.
  7. CSMP is adaptable to all types of learning styles--auditory, visual and kinesthenic. The stories and discussion are geared to the auditory learner. There are lots of pictoral representations of math concepts designed for the visual learner. And there are manipulatives and opportunities to draw concepts on paper or on a board for the kinesthenic learner.
  8. My favorite aspect to the program is that it presents higher level concepts at a younger child's level. In the first grade program, Grasshopper was introduced to concepts such as probability, adding negative numbers, multiplication, and fractions (even multiplying by fractions!). I highly recommend it for a child that is gifted in math.
Because CSMP has such a unique way of teaching, it might be difficult to jump into the program with an older child. But both the Kindergarten and First Grade materials assume no prior exposure to CSMP. But if you have an older child that hates math, I wouldn't be afraid to try it out. After all, it is FREE!

In spite of the nice pricetag, however, there are a fair amount of items to be printed, namely worksheets and storybooks. But I still think it is a great deal!

To get a feel for the program, you really have to look at some lesson plans. Check out the First Grade lesson plans and just randomly read through a few. (Watch out, it is huge document. You want to go to Section Four.) It is amazing how they manage to touch on many different concepts, even within the same lesson.

If you have any questions, leave a comment, and I will send you an e-mail.


  1. Thanks for posting about this program. I've heard it mentioned on the forums several times and have always wondered about it. Now I know :) It sounds really neat!

  2. I would like to purchase the tangible manipulatives used with this program. I can't find them? Could you assist?

  3. I love CSMP! This was my math curriculum as a child in the 80s and it was so much fun! I'm starting to do some of the lessons with my DD but loosely.

    Re: manipulatives, I think it's fine to just make your own. My recollection is that most of our manipulatives were laminated cardboard pieces although the magnetic mini-computers were pretty cool.


Latter-day Homeschooling