Sacramento Homeschool Math By Hand

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A Year in the Life: Ambient Math Wins the Race to the Top!

May 12th, 2014 · No Comments · Homeschool Math Curriculum

Day 125

For one year, 365 days, this blog will address the Common Core Standards from the perspective of creating an alternate, ambient learning environment for math.  Ambient is defined as “existing or present on all sides, an all-encompassing atmosphere.”  And ambient music is defined as: “Quiet and relaxing with melodies that repeat many times.

Why ambient?  A math teaching style that’s whole and all encompassing, with themes that repeat many times through the years, is most likely to be effective and successful.  Today’s post will feature a Common Core Grade 2 Standard listed in blue, followed by its ambient counterpart as practiced by Waldorf Education and Math By Hand.

Operations and Algebraic Thinking   2.OA
1. Use addition and subtraction within 100 to solve one- and two-step word problems involving situations of adding to, taking from, putting together, taking apart, and comparing, with unknowns in all positions, e.g., by using drawings and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem.

Before beginning here, I must say that the overall tone of these standards is that they have been hastily cobbled together, giving substance and solidity short shrift.  It’s difficult to get a handle on them, to find a place from which to build.  I don’t envy classroom teachers the daunting task of making sense of them, since they are so dry and devoid of any real context or substance.  Common Core proponents say that the standards are merely scaffolding upon which to build a curriculum.  But what has been built from them so far, the worksheets and textbooks, reflects their unworkability and difficulty.  That said, onward.

As stated earlier, the 4 processes are learned and practiced side by side, all at once.  Multiplication and division as well as addition and subtraction are reviewed in a horizontal format first, then switched to the vertical, single and double digit, with no regrouping as yet.   Solving problems is only the half of it however.  As in Grade 1, the 4 processes continue to be characterized and given personalities.  Only with this depth of meaning and substance will math be learned correctly, effectively, and with joy.  An abiding love of its beauty and deeper meaning is a missing element in our day and age, and must be regifted to our children.

Unknowns in all positions was practiced in Grade 1 with the counting gems and number strips, by moving the white square around on both sides of the equals sign.  This can be continued, with either the horizontal or vertical format.  Equations do switch back to the horizontal format in preparation for algebra and x as the unknown.  But no rush on that.  For now, make supplying the aforementioned substance and meaning a priority.  Here is a story about how Saint Francis and subtraction share the same qualities, as it appears in the Grade 2 Daily Lesson Plans book.

Saint Francis / The Story of Minus

The characterizations of the 4 processes are essential to a deeper understanding and successful working with them.   Read about the life of Saint Francis in the Grade 2 Form Drawing/Stories book, and keep that in mind as you tell this little story.  It will help to show the quality of subtraction as that of both loss and unselfish giving.

Though Saint Francis was born quite rich and loved nothing more than having a good time with his friends, he was so moved by a poor, starving beggar in the street that he turned his silken pockets inside out, emptying them into the beggar’s hands.  Very soon after that he fell very ill, and during this illness he painfully realized that he had to change his ways.

His friends laughed at him, but from then on Saint Francis could no longer keep anything for himself.  He lost everything that was given to him because he gave it all away to those who were suffering and hungry.  He often went hungry himself and became so poor that he had to live in a mountain cave.  But Saint Frances glowed with another kind of wealth.  Soon every person or creature he met wanted to be near him, and to follow in his ways.

Minus is like Saint Francis.  Though it may seem Minus is poor and always losing everything, it could also be said that Minus gives away all it has.  Loss is sad yes, but giving is joyful.

Knowledge ensues in an environment dedicated to imaginative, creative knowing, where student and teacher alike surrender to the ensuing of knowledge as a worthy goal.  Tune in tomorrow for more Common Core and its ambient, Waldorf/Math By Hand counterpart.

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