December 29, 2010

Exciting leaps in math

The kids seem to be needing a little something different from the traditional when it comes to math application.  So I've been delving a bit deeper into Montessori math manipulatives.  Okay, okay, I know that Montessori is like the text book definition for math education if you're willing to go back to a time when math was more about properly moving stones around in the sand than putting pen to paper.  I get that.  But what we now consider "traditional" is memorizing and writing.  Don't get me wrong.  I know how important memorizing is, but I also know that my parents tried every desperate measure in the book to get me to memorize my times tables and I just plain couldn't do it.  No expense was spared.  I have videos, tutors, tapes to listen to while I slept, and even a sting in Kumon at the Jewish Community Center.  All that and there are a few math facts that I still don't know off the top of my head, yet I went on to get a degree to teach math.  Shocking?  Shouldn't be.  Real math is about problem solving and application.  So recalling my own inherent difficulties with the traditional flashcard thing, I've gone searching for something a little more hands-on and applicable.  I found it!  Lot's of it!

We've been doing circle time in the morning, using bean bag games to practice skip counting and poetry.  To add to the skip counting rage, I found this adorable fairy-like skip counter, along with other wondrous math-fairy things like Brownie's math pies which are the pretty kaleidoscope like triangles up in the corner of the picture.  Fabulous!  You can get them for free - yes I said FREE - here at the the toy maker!  A little card stock paper will make this a fun and durable toy to help the excitement over skip counting and number families.

Yesterday we met "Old Gnome Divide," whose job it is to gather up all the gems in Numeria and then share them fairly with anyone who asks.  (All inspiration for the math gnomes has come from here while I wait for our Waldorf math book to arrive in the mail!  Check it out to see how to make the gnomes and to find the stories and poems that go with each one!)

Since he is so old and the gems are so big, the kids offered to gather the gems for him, and then he instructed them in how to share fairly.  Voila!  Exciting simple division.

Then Old Gnome Divide showed the kids how to divide their gems in another way on the division board (which is just a grid on poster board with numbers along the top and side).  Again...score!  They thought it was fun!

So we colored a sun in Old Gnome Divide's favorite color and between each ray, we wrote division problems to solve as a group on the board.  The boys did their art and told me what number to write where since their dexterity still leaves something to be desired.  I'm trying not to let their inability to write keep them from using their little brains to solve math equations.

Today, Hannah Jane was trying her hand at some long division.  She rocked it, even with bringing down remainders and proceeding.  Wow!  She knocked my socks off, and was pretty proud of herself.

Then Hunter wanders in and says he wants to do long division.  Knowing that he simply cannot write his numbers yet, but not wanting to squash his desire to do long division, I cut out a bunch of paper numbers really fast and wrote out the problem large enough for him to insert the paper numbers where they should go.  That boy got to work, lickety-split, and correctly answered the question, "What is 846 divided by 2?"  He moved his gem stones around the board, found the correct paper numbers to put in the answer section, and then did a little happy dance when I confirmed that he'd gotten it right.  I helped by asking after each step, "Now what do we divide next?" and "where should that answer go?"  I didn't dare interrupt his concentration to go grab the camera, but let me tell you that it was quite a sight!

Just yesterday I saw a shirt on a Montessori website that said, "I was doing long division in preschool."  I thought is was cute, but still thought, "yeah right."  Then completely unprompted, here comes Hunter asking to give it a go!  I'm tellin' ya, folks!  The right materials go a long way.  And being on a budget, I was able to make our own boards and gnomes and number cards for somewhere in the ballpark of 6 bucks!  Can't beat that! So I'm suddenly seeing the beauty in the self-led learning so long as it is within a prepared and stimulus rich environment.

In the math department, we're making major headway with the whole gnomes, rods, Montessori onslaught! I figure that if I make every angle available, they'll find something that suits them.  And so far, it's working for us!


  1. Looks like I guessed right about red dividing :)

  2. that is awesome! the only way i did well in math was by memorizing. i do not understand HOW math works. i hope i can help my boys understand the HOW. thx for posting this. that is amazing about your little guy doing division. my jaw is on the floor and then a smile. way to go! way to get to the heart of math! i am so going to "borrow" these ideas and will get to printing those manipulatives.
    Santa brought Silly Bandz for my boys and I plan to use them to help them skip count by 2s since they are always in pairs. yea, math. keep those math posts coming. i can sure use them.

  3. Silly bandz for math? I want to know more about that!

  4. Anonymous27.10.14

    Are you aware that the waldorf education is deeply rooted in the occult?


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