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In this lecture I had the honor of meeting Barbara Dewey of Waldorf Without Walls http://www.waldofwithoutwalls.com . Barbara holds a M.S. in Waldorf Education form the Waldorf Institute of Sunbridge College in Spring Valley, N.Y. and a B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Rochester, N.Y. and has been teaching for 40 years. Barbara provided regular group classes for Waldorf homeschooled children in Cleveland, Canton and Pittsburgh for several years. She is the mother of four and grandmother of six.
In this particular lecture we learned about math for grade 1 through grade 3. Waldorf education has a very different approach to math than most institutions. When teaching math to a young child they take into consideration the Whole child – mind, body, and spirit. Rudolph Steiner said that the key to math was conscious willed movement. That is to say that we remember and learn math through movement because at this age our rhythmic center is in the chest where our feelings are.
The child is first introduced to counting. This is done through marching in circles and saying rhymes. Next they go onto Quality of numbers or grouping. Children are shown the oneness or twoness of a number and so on. Stories are a very integral part of the Waldorf education and math is not without it’s stories. One really good Math story is that of Briar Rose. There are a number of concepts introduced in this story that can be used to teach the young child mathematics.
One suggestion Barbara gave for a Main Lesson for Quanity of Numbers was to take each number 1 – 10 and create a book of numbers for the children to draw, paint, or photograph. By doing this, they are seeing the numbers, touching them, and creating them. This helps them to see the relationship of one object, two objects and so forth.
Unique to the Waldorf Methods Education is the introduction of the four processes – addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Most academic institutions introduce these processes separately, which doesn’t give the child the opportunity to see the connection of the processes. The way this is introduced is also unique to the Waldorf Schools. It is introduced via a story about a gnome King who owned a mine and had four workers – Multiply, Plus, Minus, and Divide. The story goes that these four gnomes where to go into the mines and collect twelve jewels for the king. Multiply who was Bright; yellow, and sunny in nature was able to bring back more than twelve because he was able to go to the dark places. Plus was big and fat—green and greedy he always took more than he needed. He would hide extra jewels in his pockets. Minus on the other had was blue, sad, and always went around saying how poor he was because he had holes in his pockets and every time he collected jewels he would lose them. Divide however, was friendly- generous and red because his heart was full of love and would always shared his jewels with Minus. Which between the four them they managed to bring back twelve jewels to the gnome King. The story is just added to depending on the concept you want introduced to the child.
Math is a very active subject in the Waldorf Schools. Some things that I learned from Barbara were to use Bean Bags to introduce counting. (Forward and backward) The children get in a circle and a number of beanbags are introduced into the circle. At first your partner is found by throwing the beanbag across and the child must remember whom he/she threw the beanbag to and who threw the beanbag to him/her. It is quite a challenging game at first but it gets easier with practice. As the beanbag is going in the circle the entire circle counts by 1’s, 2’s, 3’s etc. forward and backward while the teacher is adding more and more bean bags to the circle.
Another interesting game involves string and a circle of 10 children or dirt and ten nails. You take the string of various colors and count while wrapping the string around the ankle of the child or nail. We did 3’s and 4’s in separate colors and the design was just beautiful. You could also do this with a piece of plywood and ten nails. It makes for great hands on project for the children.
Barbara also led us in making our own multiplication chart. You take a large piece of construction paper and square it. Next fold in half, then in quarters and repeat until you have 16 large squares. Next you fold each of the 16 squares by thirds until you have a total of 144 squares. You then take crayon and mark your boxes 1 – 12 on each side with the multiples as you go on. You can also do this project on a piece of cotton cloth. Again use crayon for the markings and the iron with a piece of paper over to protect the piece of cloth and this makes the markings permanent. You can make a carrying case for this out of felt and then make a handle out of twisty twirlys. (take three pieces of cotton yarn and get two people to hold either ends of the yarn. Both twist the string in opposites directions and when it gets taut have one person hold the two ends and the other hold the bottom. At different intervals have the person holding the bottom pinch another section and watch as the twirled string now joins into one. Awesome to watch!)
I really loved this lecture and the way Waldorf Schools teach math. Barbara says that when we introduce children to math in this manner we can teach them to love math and heal our own anxieties about math. After taking this class I believe this to be true.
Barbara provides consultations on Waldorf curriculum and individualized educational planning for your child(ren) whenever you need it. She doesn’t provide the prepared curriculum for you instead she provides you with planning strategy, basic curriculum information, bibliography, and any other help you might need. For more on what Barbara Dewey can do for you and your home education visit her at http://www.waldorfwithoutwalls.com or email her at Barbara@waldorfwithoutwalls.com
For more Information on Mathematics and Waldorf Education:
Math Lessons for Elementary Grades by Dorothy Harrer
Teaching First Grade Math at Waldorf Schools by Kim Holscher
Geometric Drawing and the Waldorf School Plan by Hermann von Baravalle
Active Arithmetic! By Henning Andersen
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