Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Math with Charlotte Mason

"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!


Renelle said...

Hi Richele,
We had a similar thing happening here where Math went from enjoyable to hated. So at the end of last year we played with our own games, 100's chart etc We also used Math Wizardry For Kids by Margaret Kenda & Phyllis Wiliams. This year we went with TT4 mainly because I was thinking I need a curriculum and now ds is enjoying his math again. Having said that I could have done without the curriculum (for the rest of primary school easily) and I just needed to relax about the whole math shabang! We are still working our way to loving learning and really feel like it is a journey. You have such insight into your children and are a wonderful educating mother. Blessings, Renelle

Phyllis said...

It is for posts like this that I gave you the blog award. This is a gem of a post. A wonderful reminder with practical suggestions. I wish I could write like you!

Richele said...

Ah, my sweets,
@Renelle - you used the word 'relax' and that is certainly key. In my fear of not having my boys undergo my math experiences I had inadvertently put it on a pedestal.

@Phyllis - Please don't make that wish as I wouldn't want your style to change. I'm enjoying CM's writings more than ever but haven't been able to write much myself lately.

Melissa said...

Very wonderfully said...as always. I love step 1 - read AND re-read! I always walk away with a reminder or new jewel after I read Ms. Mason's writings...

Nancy said...

Wonderful testimony! You are doing an amazing job with math. Please keep on like this through the years. It is how Mason did it, but so many move away from it after the primary years.
Ring true,

Amy @ simply necessary said...

I admit, I am afraid to go off the textbook for this. Math is not my specialty and, with six kids under the age of 9, I seem glad to give it over to a DVD tutor in this area. I want the CM way but it seems like so much work when I already have so many hands in the fire. Although I might pick up Beechik's book. Love her stuff on language arts. Maybe I will feel more inspired then.

Anonymous said...

Richele-could you share a list of your living math books-or where you found yours. also- I've always wondered why an incorrect math answer remains unchanged but a misspelled word must be erased right away(I had to look that word up by the way) also-I liked the insight about putting your bad math experiences on a pedestal-i've done the same. also-was the multiplication table the same as writing out your own-or is there a difference(besides the writing part)thanks, michele

joyfulmum said...

This was great! Though we really are enjoying our Singapore maths and it's one of dd's favourite subjects, actually her most favourite! I hope it stays that way, if not I'll have to come back here or read more on CM and math, lol!

Richele said...

Agreed, Rosemary and Amy, with homeschooling our experiences may be very unique to our own family.

@Amy, I used the summer to really puzzle through this and it's the kind of research I enjoy. The reality is that most of the work went into the beginning and the actual lessons during the week are enjoyable and not given more time than others.

@Michele, (and if anonymous Michele is my sister I actually think I called you for a list of your favorite math reads last year).

1)I will do my best to post of our faves. We get ours from the library but there are a few we like so much we may be adding them to our home collection.

2)This mainly has to deal with using arithmetic as a means of training. 1+1=2 is a law or truth (we can't alter it). This might be a poor example: though we want accuracy in spelling, the spelling rules were man-made. I may write "favorite" but my friends on the other side of the pond write "favourite."

Check Vol. I pp. 260-261 and Vol. 6, pp 231-232 for detailed discussion.

...and per your last question, I have a weakness for wooden manipulatives and knew my oldest would really like doing this.

This was not all done in one lesson but he liked it so much he would continue through in his free time. (CM disagreed with elaborate staves & cubes to show 1000's, geometric forms, etc. - you can see her discussion on pp. 262-263 of Vol. I).

If you've had your children do an addition table using counters, they could do a multiplication table using counters as well (beans, pennies, etc.). Start with two's and they will see themselves that multiplication is skip-counting or fast adding. Or write out your math tables if you are the point of notation.

Hope that helps.

amy in peru said...

What we're doing seems to be working for now, but I would have loved to start out like you're doing now... matter of fact, I will soon have a year 3 and year 1, so when are you planning to make all your work public? ;)

I absolutely LOVE that you did this!

amy in peru said...

oh and PS. thanks for submitting this to the CM carnival! ;)

Shirley Ann said...

Loved this post Richele! Am I ever glad that you visited my blog and left a comment! Now I can visit and read many more fab posts!

Sherry said...

I really enjoyed this post! Thanks for sharing with the CM carnival. :)

Sally said...

Oh! What a joy it has been to read this blog! I just found you on a Google search of teaching your small ones to read the Charlotte Mason way. It sent me to your post about Little Pussy, and I have been enjoying post after post of inspiration! I love Charlotte Mason's ideas, but only after 3 have begun trying to put them into practice! Thank you!

Aylin said...

I have been pondering where to go with math. I saw your comment on the SCM forum and jumped over here to read this post. I really like this idea. Ruth Beechick's math goals are so much simpler than the math curriculum we've tried. I wonder why "they" have to make things so complicated.

Marcia@TakingThyme said...

I have spent the last 2 days looking at Math U See, Singapore, and Right Start math...
So glad I ended up to where I always do - simply charlotte mason and saw your comment!
I will save my money for now while we continue to play games, count money to spend, cook, and I will buy the Ruth Beechik book and read back through Charlotte's wonderful readings, and yours!
Thank you!