Waldorf Mathematics Through the Grades
In honor of the Math Gnomes having arrived in the first grade – we thought it would be interesting to take a quick look at some of the creative ways Mathematics is taught in our Waldorf school throughout all of the grades. Like so many of the subjects in First Grade, mathematics is first introduced to the children in story form.
In Mrs. Potts’ first grade class this year, Squirrel Nutford has been a recurring character who recently stumbled upon four amazing little gnomes. These gnomes – Addison, Multi, Subastian and Divida – then introduced themselves over the course of the math block. Through the antics of each of these delightful characters, the class began to explore numbers in new ways. The children have then been working with all four math processes without naming the processes as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Instead, the processes are allowed to live with them for awhile as the characteristics of the gnomes. This imaginative approach allows the processes to come to life for the children and instill a lifelong memory. Work with the processes is enhanced with continued circle work; step counting, bean bag tossing and number verse recitation.
In the second and third grades this year, there has been continued work with all four processes with a focus on learning the times tables. As the children sit in a circle, a dodecahedron (a 12-sided object) is rolled and many hands go up as children answer math questions such as “Six times the rolled number is?” “Eight times the rolled number is?” Pencil and paper are often used, but there is also an emphasis on the ability to perform ‘mental math’, figuring out the solutions to problems in their heads.
Movement continues to play an important part in the Math learning process. Students will march, stomp, and clap their times tables during circle activity. And a favorite with the children, Tuesdays and Thursday morning circle work includes jump roping where the children will recite their times tables forwards and backwards. Classmates cheered each other on and each of them was so proud when they earned their own jump rope when they completed jumping their times tables.
In the fourth and fifth grades, students have been introduced to fractions, long division, prime and square numbers. Form drawing continues to play a role in the introduction of geometric forms. Skills are constantly reinforced in these areas in creative ways of practice drilling and movement exercises. In one such practice drill, students form lines and compete to win playing cards by knowing their times tables the fastest. Students are always enthusiastic about this quick morning exercise.
Mr. Thompson’s sixth grade class has learned ratio and proportion and geometric drawings have increased in complexity. In a recent Business Math block, students formed their own donut making business and this became a mechanism for learning about profit and loss, interest and percentages. They are currently working with graphing and linear equations.
The seventh grade has continued building on all of the foundational math skills developed in earlier grades as well as introducing positive and negative numbers, formulas and coming soon – Algebra!