Having fun with mathematics

Most of my homeschooling friends are ‘classical’ homeschoolers. They are all about academic acceleration and excellence. I want those things for my daughter, too, but more importantly I want her to hold onto her magic for as long as she can. I want her to be able to see the beauty in life through her innocent eyes. I want her spirit to be fed, just as much as her brain and I want her to approach everything in life with a soulfulness that I think is lacking in our world just now. Perhaps she can be one of the people who helps create loving change. That being said, it is easy to feel like I’m doing Martina an injustice when I look at the advanced academic work some of these kids are doing! I get all wobbly and find it difficult to hold my center. To remember that I really *am* sure that what I’m doing with my child is the best choice for us…for her and that she is, after all, academically just fine. This trading of ideas is one of the coolest and most distressing things about homeschooling and my friends and I often laugh about this very topic: how we are constantly worrying whether or not we are doing the best we can by our children. Ladies (and Gentlemen if any happen to stumble across this blog!)? We are.

Anyway, on to math. We did a Singapore math course for 2nd grade. It was okay, so far as math courses go, but it was dry and not much fun. Eventually, after a chat with Martina, I ordered the Christopherus 2nd grade math book. It is a wonderland of fun with math. Then I started exploring the internet and found resources and gnomes and beauty and fun and so guess what we’re doing this summer? Yep. Math.

Typically Waldorf maths are done in blocks and that’s what we will be doing, only the blocks will be broken up by trips to the mountains and beach, rather than other lesson blocks. Our main focus is going to be this: finding the magic in math.

Resources you might ask? Why yes, tons of them! Here is my list of links: Christopherus 2nd Grade Mathematics; Waldorf Without Walls Math for Grades 1-3; Marsha Johnson’s yahoo group, where there an excellent files section with grade level ideas for all subjects; EBeth, an incredible blog with a complete math story using math gnomes for introducing the 4 processes. The 4 processes are traditionally introduced in 1st grade but I got caught up in depression last year and didn’t do much at all other than teach my daughter to read and work in our nature journals. This year has been very different and we have managed to cover quite a lot of ground in our learning…I just want to have some fun with math! So we are going to briefly go over the 4 processes, introduced by gnomes.

We started out trying to use squirrels, as is done in the Christopherus book but neither of us really connected with them. A few days ago I was reading and started thinking about those gnomes and decided to give them a try. We love elemental beings and I knew Martina would connect with them as soon as I started reading the story. If you could have seen the look on her face when I uncovered this:

It took just two days of secret sewing to make the gnomes. They are large, 6″ to 8″ tall, maybe taller with their hats. The other things came from our rock collections and wood pile. We used the first in the EBeth collection of stories for math before the big reveal and once we had gotten over the excitement of exploring the gnomes, Martina took out her Roman numeral stones and made a path by the gnomes.


Here you can see the stones with their Arabic numeral counterparts.

We also worked on place value and all four of the processes on a sheet of paper lined with yellow for ones, red for tens and blue for hundreds. I carry these colors over for one thousands, ten thousands and hundred thousands so that Martina can see the pattern and how it works and repeats. The four smaller beads above the Roman and Arabic numerals are process markers. Like the gnomes, red is division, yellow is multiplication, green is addition and blue is subtraction. I place a mixed group of Arabic and Roman numbers on our sheet of paper, along with the process marker and Martina does the problem. Sometimes we use a number of smaller beads rather than one of the larger beads with a number on it. Here are a few examples:

I also make a point of sometimes leaving a column blank so that she understands the concept of zero. If the column is blank, it simply means there is an empty set there, as seen in the last picture here in the second number tens column, 1,103 (I think! It’s difficult to see the numbers.) What you can see is the blank column and the way she had to use the colored beads in the proper amounts in order to put her answer down on the paper.

Manipulatives often make me go to sleep. In this case, we’re having a great time with them. Something about them being pretty and homemade makes all the difference.

In summary, we are going over the first grade math stories briefly but continuing to do deeper work on the four processes. We are not yet carrying numbers but are doing place value up as high as she wants to go on a given day. We are also working on the qualities of numbers once more and in more depth. We are using Kristie Burns’ guide to Holistic or Sixth Sense Math and then moving this kindy exploration into the multiplication tables. It’s a nice re-introduction to the feeling of numbers before we get to the bouncing, jumping, clapping and singing of the tables.

Finding a math program that works for us has been a difficult journey. We both need something fun and beautiful and soulful to connect with and these math stories have all of those things, right up beside hardcore work on the processes. I’m feeling much more grounded and happy with what we’re doing in math now than I have since I bought her a Saxon kindergarden program several years ago. We have found what works for us. Finally.

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Categories: homeschool, math | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Having fun with mathematics

  1. We use Math-U-See, a block and workbook combination curriculum that goes all the way through calculus with the same blocks. He really enjoys the puzzle aspect of doing math. However, we also look for other ways to make math fun. I have a set of foam numbers and math symbols they can use for a math bath. When I got up yesterday there was a message on my bathroom mirror: 8+6=14 +6=20. šŸ™‚ Oh, and we didn’t like the Saxon approach either.

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