Ideas for Second Grade Math Blocks

I am in the middle of planning out math, at least the general progression and ideas, for our second grade year to begin in the fall. This is my third time through second grade, now with our youngest, and it is strange that it will be my last time through second grade math.

In constructing Waldorf math blocks for this grade, I am thinking of movement, and mathematical and artistic experiences to really bring math into the body and into liveliness.  Thoughts about these three things are the bedrock of the Waldorf math experience.

The “big themes” for the four math blocks of this year (which, in my mind and for my student),  include :   Decomposing numbers/Working with all four processes/Introduction to Place Value;  More Number Strategies/Working with Time;  Geometry; and lastly, A Synthesis of the Year).

I have thought of the “format”I want to follow in math this year.  For me this year, this is the idea of units of math throughout the entire year so I have a focus for daily math practice, and then ideas for the specific skill progression within a block.  The vehicle to carry these skills, which are stories and games, this imaginative form, will be the last specific  things I choose, keeping in mind the developmental needs of the second grader will be met by fables, tricksters, and saints.

My skill progression (so far) that I am thinking of for the year includes using all four processes for math, being able to use ten to add to numbers, fact families, estimating, two digit addition and subtraction, using a number line, working in grouping of numbers and decomposing numbers, place value (generally reading and writing numbers to 1000, comparing numbers, understanding place value), non-standard measurement in preparation for third grade  (although I may do some liquid measurement our last month of second grade in with gardening and being outside), three digit addition and subtraction, simple geometry, multiplication and division, and time.  I also looked at our state standards to see what is there!

For imagery, I have decided to pull our  first block from some stories I found in “Anansi the Spider Man” by Philip M. Sherlock.  The second block we  will be working with decomposing numbers and number strategies though American Tall Tales.  The third block that will be a synthesis of the year will be our gardening block in our last month and include writing and math, and may include a liquid measurement component in preparation for third grade (I mean, water and containers outside…What could be more fun?).  The geometry block I am modeling off of includes some geometry ideas from the Christopherus Second Grade Math book and some ideas about making patchwork quilts and gingerbread villages found in the mainstream book, “Math Excursions 2:  Project-Based Math for Second Graders” by Donna Burk, Paula Symonds, and Allyn Snider which I will modify (although I am not sure in what way yet!)

I use a variety of resources, both Waldorf resources and mainstream resources, in order to teach math in second grade.  My favorite Waldorf resources for this grade include the guide “Making Math Meaningful:  A Source Book for Teaching Math In Grades One Through Five” by  York,  Fabrie, and Gottenbos; “Mathematics in Rudolf Steiner Schools For Classes I-VIII” by Ron Jarman; “Math Lessons For Elementary Grades” by Dorothy Harrer; “Active Arithmatic!” by Henning Anderson, and varying form drawing books.

My favorite non-Waldorf resources for second grade include math games that I can take and re-work into a more imaginative scenario because games  are a math experience.  This is an important part of math and developing number sense.  The best examples of these imaginative games in a Waldorf context that I have found include Master Waldorf teacher Marsha Johnson’s files over at (yes, a Yahoo Group. I know pretty much all groups have switched to Facebook at this point, but these files are a very important for the early grades, they are free, and I urge you to take advantage of them!).  Examples of mainstream math books that have ideas  that could be put into a more  imaginative Waldorf context include “Second Grade Math” by  Nancy Litton;  “Math Excursions 2: Project-Based Mathematics for Second Graders” by Burk, Symonds, and Snider already mentioned above; “The Dyscalculia Toolkit” by Ronit Bird; and “Math in the Garden:  Hands On Activities That Bring Math To Life” (White, Barrett, Kopp, Manoux, Johnson, and McCullough). Other experiences I am thinking of include cooking and gardening, nature walks, knitting, crafting for festivals, music and movement (rhythm is a basis of math!).

Are you planning second grade math?  I would love to hear from  you!





2 thoughts on “Ideas for Second Grade Math Blocks

  1. I’m just sitting here planning second grade math and wondering if it’s worth the shipping costs to Canada to buy Making Math Meaningful. You’ve convinced me. 🙂

    • Hi Kirstin,
      Yes, I don’t think we really have much else available to us in terms of a simple guide for what each block should entail. It won’t give you creative ideas for carrying out what is listed to be taught per se, and I think Marsha Johnson (join her Yahoo Group to access her free files if you are not already a member and you will see what I mean – lumberjack math, math involving waterways of the world, chocolate math, all interesting artistic ideas of how to carry content) gives some great examples of ways to make really creative math blocks, but MMM will give you what content should be in those blocks. I hope that makes sense.

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