"The child may learn the multiplication-table and do a subtraction sum without any insight into the rationale of either. He may even become a good arithmetician, applying rules aptly, without seeing the reason of them." -CM, Home Education, p. 255.
At the end of the last school year I could have replaced "The child" with my eldest son's name. We were using a "Charlotte Mason friendly" math curriculum (that we liked) and my child worked math problems with relative ease - usually attaining 100% on both worksheets and exams without dawdling. Sounds good but once the mommy-microscope was moved into place much more was revealed:
Math had moved from my child's favorite subject to his least favorite. He had trouble applying math in situations outside of his textbook and considered arithmetic a "school subject" only. It was becoming increasingly evident that the habits of insight, accuracy and readiness were being inhibited rather than developed. So, I did what I always do when something isn't working and went to The Source - praying first as my own longstanding fear of math had to be dealt with and knowing the Lord always has a plan.
Luca and Maxim using their homemade balance as they "weigh everything about [them] that admits of such treatment." CM, Vol. I, p. 260.
This plan surprisingly meant going textbook free for Year 1 and Year 3 math. Here's the process I went through:
1)Read and re-read all Charlotte Mason said in her original writings regarding math. Whether you want to teach without the use of a textbook -- or simply make your CM-friendly math curriculum a whole lot friendlier -- each reading reminds, encourages and offers so much. Short lessons, concrete facts taught before abstract concepts, and the use of counters in the early years are what generally comes to mind regarding CM and math. She also offers practical advice for teaching activities, why math should not preempt the humanities, moving on from manipulatives, training the habit of accuracy by letting wrong answers stay wrong, fundamental truth and more.
2)Write out a Scope & Sequence. Not only does the school system that we report to require one but without this it could be easy for me to wake up one morning and realize I'd let things slide. After reviewing state requirements, I used Ruth Beechick's scope & sequences from Easy Start in Arithmetic as my framework, adding Charlotte's suggestions as well as object lessons found in Parent Review Articles, with my favorite being an article on Nursery Fractions by Mrs. Boole.
3)Include living books. The addition of living books to our math lessons has made an astounding difference and it is little wonder why Charlotte Mason encourages parents to share stories of the "battles won" in the quest for truth with our children.
How interesting arithmetic and geometry might be if we gave a short history of their principal theorems; if the child were mentally present at the labours of a Pythagoras, a Plato, a Euclid, or in modern times of a Viète, a Descartes, a Pascal, or a Leibnitz. Great theories, instead of being lifeless and anonymous abstractions, would become human, living truths, each with its own history, like a statue by Michael Angelo, or like a painting by Raphael. Vol. II, Parents and Children, p. 128.
Our oldest working out a multiplication table or Pythagoras Board.
Happily, Term 1 and Term 2 went exceedingly well with our new textbook free math. Happier yet are seeing our goals met and recently being told by a friend how my oldest had shared with her that math is his favorite subject.
*Update I've done some in-depth research on Charlotte Mason and math and share what I've learned at this post!