I will try to help with the first grade math question. I am also very visual and had to read the math section many times. I probably still didn't do everything exactly right. Still, I was very pleased with the math in first grade and I am also glad that I did not use another math curriculum either in place of it or alongside it. In the beginning, we tried several different things and this ended up being what we stuck with.JL wrote: I've read the math pages in the TM, but I'm a very visual person and sometimes just reading it doesn't click with me. Does anyone have any pointers, or could you just briefly walk me through what a couple of math lessons are like? I hope this makes sense, it's late and that's probably part of my problem!
For the number of the day (your TM will tell you the number of the day), my son would write it on his 100 chart. This was the first page in his math binder. Next, he would go to the page where they write out the equations and he would write the days number there. Then, he would count out the number with his beans and beans sticks. He would show me that he understood what the number meant... 12 is one bean stick and two single beans, etc . After that, he would complete the equation page. He would draw a picture of his bean sticks and beans and then complete the place value and equation section. Then, he would get his penny for the day and count the money out to me. I'm sorry I don't have this right in front of me so I hope I'm not confusing you.
After that, we would do some type of math activity. We did a variety of things. Some things that we did came from the TM and some did not. Just look through your TM and put a little pencil mark by the things you want to do. You do not have to do it all. I ended up using several commercial games that I purchased ready-made. One was called Sum Swamp. It covers addition and subtraction. The other was called Little Spender. It's about money. We used the Complete Book of Math but it was really just a supplement. I would just pick and choose pages for him to complete. I tried to pick pages that had him doing some kind of activity. He loved rolling his dice and adding the numbers together.
I also did a good bit of oral math with him. During math time and at other times throughout the day, I would ask him questions about math. Like, "If I had seven cookies and ate three of them, how many would I have left?" He really enjoyed doing this.
So, that's all we really did, I think. He is doing very, very well with math in 2nd grade and will complete it quickly. I found that the math in first grade was a perfect foundation. 1st is very focused on place value and once they understand that, everything just clicks together very well.