Math Phobia In The Waldorf Homeschool

Mathematics is one of those incredible subjects that has so much to offer and yet people discount it in our society.  We wouldn’t joke or find it humorous to not be able to read, so why do we hear people who ruefully laugh and just say, “Wow, I am not good at math.  Here, you divide up this bill.”   Or my favorite, the cashier who cannot make change when the computer on the cash register at the check-out line goes down.  Yuck!  My family ran a business and back then, there was no computer to tell you what cash to give back (okay, do I sound old and cranky here or what? LOL).  But, my point is, I think too often we underestimate the importance of numeral literacy.  It is every bit as important as reading!

Here are some fun links regarding math anxiety and numeral literacy:

You actually don’t “have” to have an aptitude for math; math skills can totally be developed!   I was not “good” at math, although I enjoyed it in the younger grades, then went through a period where I cried a lot and didn’t “get it” and then lo and behold, when I took college mathematics courses like calculus and such and physics one, the math part made complete sense!  Who knew?  I think the challenge is, though, that some children need many problems to master a concept and some need only a few problems.

Also, children have to be willing to try (and sometimes fail) and work at something!  You may notice this tendency to work at something (or not) in areas other than mathematics with your child.  I think try to give them a taste of success in something outside of math is helpful, as well as giving them problems you know they can do along with harder things in math.  Also, I think it is good to work in small chunks in the early grades – sometimes I think we are expecting far too much of our first and second graders.  Do make sure your expectations are realistic!  Check out the math standards for education by grade for your state and see if you are on track!

Jamie York and his co-authors discuss in “Making Math Meaningful” book for grades 1-5 (and I do think this book is worthy as a supplement to whatever math curriculum you are using!)  (here is the link:     that “math phobia” can begin somewhere between second and fourth grade and that this can be “undone” in the sixth and seventh grades, but it is much harder to undo this in the  high school years.

What can you do if you are math phobic or you notice your child being math phobic?  How can you progress in math in your Waldorf homeschool?  This could be a series of posts really, but let’s look at some simple ideas here.

  • First of all, check your own attitude and what you say about math in front of your child!  Are you math phobic?  Then homeschooling  math is going to be wonderful for your own development as well!
  • Please place the same importance on that as you do reading!  I hear many parents say, “Well, I didn’t want to do First Grade Waldorf because my child already knew his letters and how to read!’”  As if all First Grade is is a bunch of letters!  What about math, the qualities of numbers and the four processes?
  • In first grade, do bring in math daily after you do your qualities of numbers block if you are doing a non-math block.    Every day there should be time to work with math manipulatives  and later on with mental math.  There should be simple oral sentences you give to work out with manipulatives (or just mentally).  Most families do this right after gathering. Perhaps you have some songs and verses for the month, some movement, and then you do your ten minutes of math.
  • From about second grade up, you may consider having a time one day a week during non-math blocks to devote a half hour or so to math, practical math, however you want to bring it.  Many families do this on their last day of school for the week.
  • All this being said, do let math sleep at some points during the year.  Let it rest and germinate inside your child.  You may find when you return to it that your child understands it so much better.
  • Homeschooling math can be so very intense because of that one to one relationship. It is easy to hover and offer too much help.  Some mothers keep laundry to fold nearby or knitting nearby.  I have often transformed into a “substitute math teacher” with a crazy accent (mom has gone out to the store!) who is kind but strict.  She doesn’t help, she wants to see what you can do and she doesn’t hover. 
  • If your child is crying every time math is presented, take a break!  Or, alternately, instead of taking a break, you may really have to go back to the part of math your child understands and works from there to figure out what is tripping them up.  Subtraction usually is part of it and not really having those addition and subtraction facts down cold.  I think Jamie York’s math book is great for diagnosing where the problem is. 
  • Movement, movement, movement.  Bouncing a ball, tossing a ball, standing on the end of a balance beam and tossing bean bags into a bucket, bouncing on a trampoline for addition/subtraction facts and multiplication tables. 
  • Work whole to parts and all four processes together.  Most children don’t seem to understand at first that subtraction will “undo” addition and division will “undo” multiplication. I think that is the advantage of teaching math the Waldorf way with all four processes together.    It is also hard for them to see 4 X 7 is the same as 7X4, so work with that in mind for these Early Grades.
  • Stories are great, but I think at the end of second grade and certainly at the beginning of third grade, there needs to just be math.  However, always save the last ten minutes to tell stories – in first grade, do tell a fairy tale at the end of the lesson, in second tell a folktale or fable and in third tell some Native American tales or more fairy tales.  It is always that holistic working of all subjects together. 
  • Do play games that involve math and find opportunities to use math in gardening, cooking, handwork.  It can be done!  🙂
  • People ask all the time about worksheets. I know most Waldorf consultants will tell you later, after the nine year change, most seem to say Fifth Grade. I  believe on the Jamie York website given above, there are some math worksheets available for Third Grade and up.


The math curriculum as laid out in the Christopherus Curriculum Grades One through Eight:  This includes links to the math books that are available separately from buying the full curriculum.

Melisa Nielsen’s Math E-book, Grades One Through Five:  For $18, this is a steal!  Every lesson is laid out completely for each block. 

Math Books section at Bob and Nancy’s:

Free math blocks and movement for math at Marsha Johnson’s Yahoo!Group at

Math goals Grade One:

Many blessings,



5 thoughts on “Math Phobia In The Waldorf Homeschool

  1. Thank you! I stumbled across your site when I was looking for autumn stories and I am completely entranced and grateful. Maths was troubling me I must admit and I’ve been finding playful ways of encouraging their love of the basic notion. You’ve given me tremendous food for thought.

  2. Thank you! This is exactly the information I need. I am a “math illiterate,” who struggled with numbers my entire school career. To this day, my brain completely freezes up when asked to do even the simplest math, on-the-spot. I lived in a small town that had one math teacher through all of junior high/high school, who knew his stuff; he just wasn’t great at communicating with someone with my type of difficulties. Math is really one of the things that has scared me about the idea of homeschooling, so thanks again for the resources!

  3. Pingback: You Can Do The Math: Overcome Your Math Phobia And Make | Overcoming Fears

  4. Pingback: Tips Regarding Math in Waldorf Grade One « The Parenting Passageway

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