Thursday, June 13, 2013

Math and the Write Stuff - Charlotte Mason-style (Part 1)

 Would you be surprised by the suggestion to place Handwriting or Handcraft directly after the arithmetic lesson? After all, in a Charlotte Mason education variety in the order of lessons is important so neither the brain nor body tires. 

This makes sense when arithmetic lessons are primarily oral. Rather than being worksheet driven, with a child working a page of exercises such as the one pictured below, the actual writing of sums is used very sparingly in the early years.

Not CM-friendly.

Let's take a look at the first few lessons in Elementary Arithmetic and how the reading and writing of digits are to be taught. We'll use Charlotte's writings as well as the booklet "The Teaching of Mathematics to Young Children" by Irene Stephens, Lecturer in Mathematics at Ambleside, as our guide.

In Charlotte’s schools, elementary arithmetic lessons were referred to as Numbers or Sums, referring to the child’s investigation of each number by working out addition and subtraction sums involving its use. For the first lesson, the number one is taken and the child is asked to point out one of something in the room, that is, anything that exists singly. One door, one nose, one pencil, etc.; following this, the symbol for one is learnt. Whenever we see a stroke “1” we know that it stands for one of something” (Stephens, 1911, p. A2).

The children pick out the ones from among a group of figures, then, at last, they have the chance to learn to write the symbol one. Here you will notice a striking similarity between Charlotte’s initial lessons in Numbers and her first reading lessons.

The child should be taught from the first to regard the printed word as he already regards the spoken word, as the symbol of fact or idea full of interest (CM, Vol. 1, p. 216).

Interest at once; he knows the thing…and the written symbol is pleasant in his eyes because it is associated with an existing idea in his mind (CM, Vol. 1, p. 218).

The initial writing of numbers would have been done on the child’s slate with chalk but if you prefer a small dry-erase board, feel free to use that. Just as in Charlotte’s early hand-writing lessons, neatness and accuracy are desired, with the child getting their written symbol for one as straight and perfect as they are able.

Next, the numbers two through nine are taken systematically in the same way, with little sums involving each number given orally.  Numbers are first written out on the child’s slate and then a gridded notebook is introduced with each number occupying a square.

Just as you wouldn't begin handwriting lessons with a college-ruled notebook, your child will need a larger grid than the 4sq/inch or .5cm square most readily available for purchase at your local office supply but the right size can be found at certain Waldorf supply stores. A Toy Garden carries these 9x12 math notebooks which are 2.5 sq/inch, while Paper, Scissors, Stone carries a slightly smaller size math notebook (8x10) which is 3 sq/inch. Both notebooks are small-hand-friendly.

Can you imagine, rather than being bent over a worksheet for 20 minutes, the opportunity to write in a math notebook being considered a real privilege by a child? In the next post, we'll take a further look at the act of writing in these early stages of elementary arithmetic and how it fits into the later years of mathematics.


Dove's Rest said...

Hellooo Richele,

I am so savouring theses posts. Thank you for linking to your reading post from 2010 that has also been very helpful. I am starting all over again from scratch with 'Blossom' and I am determined to follow CM principals and the gentleness of the process. I feel like I am still learning to recognise when enough is enough and be aware of the 'enjoy' factor. I am really looking forward to hearing all about the LER. Thinking of you often. Thank you again for posting, I am loving seeing your posts pop up. Much love to you and yours.

Anonymous said...

My appetite is whetted!(sp?) I too am eager for LER and to see YOU!

Thanks for those links to the notebooks with the grid paper. I have been slightly agonizing over trying to hand make one. This is exactly where we are at on our journey right now. And this post makes me oh so excited to continue on!
Bobby Jo

amy in peru said...



Nancy said...

Well, why should we be surprised at her method and order - of course it extends to mathematics! Thank you for slowly and clearly unfolding this on your blog. It is a blessing to all of us.

I wonder if that size grid can be found free online? or some other such site?

Looking forward to the Living Education Retreat and your talks on Math. Actually, just seeing and visiting with you is enough to make me happy!

From joy to joy,

Richele said...

Yes, Nancy, I'm sure I made the Homer Simpson "doh" sound in the midst of my research many times.

Thank you for adding the link! The grid paper can be printed out freely from various places on line but with the cost of paper and ink, the bound ones are so nice and reminiscent of the PUS. We also use the Waldorf-style geography main lesson book for our science notebooks.

LER or bust!

Anonymous said...

Richele, thank you for all of your research and your book, and for these delightful posts about math. Is there a part 2 to go with this? I was unable to find it.

Heureuse d'instruire en famille said...

Hi. Will you write the part 2?
Love your blog.

Richele said...

Oh, yes, sorry. I've been busy at work on getting these written all at once and provided for everyone. I hope to be able to tell you more soon. Thanks for your patience.