I recently put a photograph of the books and resources I have used for math throughout the Early Grades on The Parenting Passageway Facebook page , and I also posted some photographs last week of our second grader using the story of ” Anansi, Brother Breeze, and the Pear Tree”, manipulatives, and more to work on math. If you like photographs and microblogging, please do and like the Facebook page (and Instagram is to come!)
At any rate, there was a great thread attached to these photographs that got me thinking about how I go about planning a year of math. So I pulled out some of my resources and thought about the template I have developed over the years to really dig in and plan.
Steiner: I usually start with Steiner’s lectures on math and go back and look for relevant information. Over the summer, this typically includes “Discussions With Teachers,” “Practical Advice To Teachers,” and “Foundations of Human Experience.” I am a Waldorf homeschooler, so any resources I bring to the table I insert them into this particular framework.
Current Research: I have been following the work of Jo Boaler and some of the most current neuroscience regarding teaching math. So I usually go through “Mathematical Mindsets” by Jo Boaler again and refresh myself. Jo Boaler also has open courses through Stanford University that one can take and learn about teaching math.
Then, I do look at the traditions of the Waldorf School for that particular grade, including sample lessons. For these, I usually look at things such as “Making Math Meaningful” by Fabrie, Gootenbos, and York; “Teaching Mathematics in Rudolf Steiner Schools for Classes I-VIII” by Jarman. These help me plan out our math goals for the year and to break that down into what might be the goals for particular blocks. In the early grades, I find the skills more broad and fluid and often intertwine throughout the year and grades, whereas the upper grades still have that but a block starts to begin to be very focused – algebra in seventh grade, platonic solids in eighth grade, etc.
Then, I start planning blocks with the stories and the art as my inspiration. I often go in with an idea in mind in terms of what types of stories that might be interesting. So for second grade, I really had nothing more than the thought of Anasi the Spider stories for one block (cooking Caribbean food and drawing, perhaps?), lumberjack math for one block (drawing, perhaps, but maybe something with food and singing hearty campfire songs and flannel fabrics!), a winter-y tale or winter-y folk tale block (maybe building some kind of a winter village??) , and a math in the garden block to start.
Then I start meshing the goals of our year with the blocks and filling in details. For this, I need not only the Waldorf School goals but to really LOOK at the child in front of me. Where is this child? For this, I need to break down those skills and figure out HOW AM I GOING TO TEACH THIS? Sometimes what helps me here is something like David Darcy’s “Inspiring Your Child’s Education”; and mainstream books geared to second grade such a “Second Grade Math” by Litton; Math Excursions 2 by Burk, Snider, Symonds: and books of verses, games and rhymes. One book of games that I like is actually “The Dyscalculia Toolkit” by Ronia Bird. There are many games that really teach number sense and those foundational building blocks for number sense and higher-level math! I also like “Games for Math” by Peggy Kaye and I have heard great things about “Family Math”. I also look to books like “Active Artithmetic” by Anderson and “Rhythms, Rhymes, Games and Songs for the Lower School.” You can also see my Pinterest boards ( by grade and also two separate math boards for lower and upper grades) for many of the ideas I have collected.
For a product that you can use that does have daily lesson plans or that you could integrate into ANY curriculum you are using, I like “Math By Hand” for grades 1-4. I have used this since our now-tenth grader was in the early grades. In the beginning , there were no daily lesson plans, but there are now, and those could be a lovely jumping off point. I am sort of a math lover, so we do a lot of math compared to most homeschoolers, so I still use a variety of resources, but this is one of our resources!
The daily practice between blocks shows us how to really practice and get this into our bodies and minds, and also how to progress from from block to block. However, I think the biggest mistake people make with daily practice is that they don’t really have a goal by week for any of it. What is the child supposed to be learning, what is the child supposed to accomplish, in math during the non-block time? To me, there should be a sense that something is mastered, or a foundation laid at least, in between blocks. As an example, I used the first three weeks of second grade this year to review counting by 1s, skip counting, movement in math, Roman Numerals in games, making tens in games, regrouping numbers into the twenties, all four processes, and even casually introduced place value in a story before we ever hit our first math block of Anansi Tales where we are really delving into all four processes, place value, and factoring. I also try to remind myself that daily practice also includes all the circle/warm-up games, verses and fingerplays, things you weave into cooking and handwork, movement and more!
I think this sort of template can work for ANY grade! Math seems to be the subject that intimidates homeschoolers the most, and I really want to de-mystify it. Math is fun, it is all around us, and we should be as literate in math as we are in reading and writing. We should expect our children to be mathematicians, becaue everyone is one!
This is really great post!! I am interested in Waldorf methods too.
A lovely encouragement, thank you!
As always thank you so much for sharing how to do these things: I have come unstuck with Gr6 and 7 maths where I needed to remind myself of how to do some of these things (I did maths too 2nd year level at University… but I have forgotton lots) and also ways to approach some of the maths concepts – so if they are not getting through I can go a different way.
So I need a maths text for teachers with loads of worked examples showing the different nuances. Any recommendations?
Carol (South Africa)
As the years progress, how do stories evolve in math blocks? In first grade my stories were so connected to the content, the art, the movement , the needs, etc. Second grade as well. Third, much of it was connected to the larger stories of the year and practical/hands on. I’m really wanting to tell rich and interesting stories stories during math blocks this coming year but I don’t feel the connection deeply. For example, I’ve just learned some Japanese mythology and would love to tell them during the math blocks (review, long division, fractions, decimals). I saw somewhere… a 4th grade math blocks using the Finnish Kalevala tales and I would just love to see how that worked!
Thanks as always– great inspiration + support from you.
I have a happy update (so you can choose to reply and post if you want)!! I put some serious work into my Japanese Mythology Math block today. I learned the stories, mediated on them, wrote them out in my short hand (I do this on index cards for the stories I tell which I have to learn). Then art and other visual ideas surfaced (wet on wet for the creation story, form drawing relating to the iconic waves/ stylized art of Japan’s past, foam printing, some paper arts, etc.) I then looked at my first math block and began to match up the academic content with my stories. I think that I will be “stretching” elements of the stories into word problems and metaphors to work with in the thinking-doing part of the lesson. We’ll also do something with the islands of Japan and math (drawing and then dividing them) as one of the stories is of Izanagi and Isanami birthing/creating the islands.
I think I have to follow the information in Steiner’s lectures (ancient myths) that leads me to a general place of ideas (Japanese stories) , then learn those stories, art forms, etc. and see how I can match it up with the specific subject content (in this case math). Sheila
Hi Sheila! That sounds terrific! I was out of the country over the past week, which is why I had the slow turn- around of approval. Thanks for sharing and updating. 🙂 I think Japanese myths are perfect for third and even fourth grade; I love the tone of some of these tales really can meet the student past first grade. Such soul food. Blessings, Carrie