Waldorf Math | Elementary Years

Math can be a daunting subject area to tackle. We may have experienced our own math trauma in school which led up to grow up believing we weren’t good at math resulting in a fear or dislike of the subject. Some of us did well in math. We learned the exactness of math and the clear answers it expects and rested in the solid belief that there is an answer in math and we will persevere to find it.

I remember talking with friends in school as a young student, and finding that students fell into one of two categories: Those who loved Math and Science and those who loved English and History. I reflect with sadness. I wish I didn’t grow up believing I didn’t like Language Arts and History because I wasn’t good at them…what a tragedy to miss out on so many wonderful educational opportunities because I had already made up my mind that I wasn’t good at those subjects. Same with those of us who felt that way about math and science.

Part of the blame rests in how these subjects are taught and what the school system expects of the student. Now that we are adults, we can renegotiate our experiences about school and hopefully arrive at new conclusions about our educational journey.

How does this relate to math? And specifically Waldorf math? Exactly what I loved about math in school: exactness of the answer and there being just the one, is not the case in Waldorf math. Instead, you begin with the anwer, let’s say 12.

“What makes 12?” The teacher asks the students. Not just one answer makes 12, as one student offers, “3 x 4″, and another student offers ” 2 x 6″ and yet another student says “24 divided by 2”, and soon the whole class erupts in answers. You could answer this question every second of the day for an entire school day and still have more answers. In fact, you’d never run out of answers because there are an infinite number of solutions to make 12.

Math is dynamic and exact, beautiful and chaotic and always mind blowing.

Do you still dislike math? Are you still worried you can’t teach math to your children?

It’s my deep belief that the best mathematicians in the world happen to be the poorest teachers. They are lousy in my opinion. They are wonderful, brilliant mathematicians, but they are not brilliant teachers. They tend to be impatient, and aren’t skilled at breaking down complex math concepts for the average person. They can’t understand what you don’t understand and think much of math is obvious. I truly believe that those of us who struggled the most with math make the best teachers, and here’s why. I believe that if you struggled with math, disliked it and feared it for any number of reasons, you end up being a patient, empathetic and resourceful teacher because you remember how lost, helpless and small you felt as the teacher taught math. It was probably too fast for you. Maybe too complex. And once you stumble in math, it’s sooooo hard to pick yourself up in time to catch up with your class.

Let’s create a new experience for math. One that will cultivate a love for math in your children and heal your math trauma. Let’s start with some beautiful math materials to spark the curiosity and inspire a love of learning.

Math Haul |Treasures From Jennifer

These wooden educational products by Treasures from Jennifer are some of the most beautiful pieces in our homeschool room. They are well made, durable and all natural. They are also expensive and take up lots of room. These items accompany our math main lesson blocks. We use them to practice the multiplication table, number facts, and more. These items are primarily for my 9-year-old daughter, but the geometry materials will be used by both my 13-year-old son and my daughter.

Waldorf Math | Grades 1-3 | Living Books, Games and Curriculum

Do you want to make math meaningful, educational and enjoyable? It may seem like an impossible task, but it can be achieved! I’ve collected a number of living books and games to enhance our math main lesson block. These materials are suitable for students grades 1-3 but can be enjoyed by older students as well.

I’m putting together this unit to complement our main lesson block on math. We have been relying on our Live Education Waldorf curriculum and for this unit, I’m referring to Grade 2 and Grade 3 math main lesson books. I love adding Math Games into our math units and any time of year! I have accumulated a number of math games and each time we do a math unit, I pull these out and we play them during our opening activities. I love math books! And these days there are so many fantastic math picture books. I’ve written a blog post about them so you can see our nearly complete collection (we keep adding to it), as well as a video on them so you can browse the inside of these books.

New for this round of math units are geometry books from Siraj Books. I love the geometric designs that relate to the Muslim world as this perfectly transition and connects our math units with the history units for the year. While the geometry book are for our Geometry main lesson block for my 13-year-old, but if you wish to add them in, you may consider offering these designs to color in for younger students as they may need to be a bit older to utilize the geometry books if you are going to construct these designs.

I’ve been sharing math and geometry video tutorials for several years. Check out the complete playlist here. Love Math Games? Check out some of our favorites here.

Mental Math

Mental math is the process of doing math problems in your head. Generally it’s math you already know, but are aiming for proficiency and mastery. Mental math calls on capabilities of memory, math ability and the ability to work out math problems in your head without a paper and pencil or calculator.

This Mental Math curriculum is designed for grades 1-3. There are two 36-week years worth of math problems organized by weeks. Each day there are four questions totally 20 questions a week. That’s nearly 1500 math problems that can be reused over several years. I typically recycle my math problems, often offering some simple questions to my students as well as challenging ones. The simple questions offer wins and diminish math fatigue. If the challenging ones are too difficult, skip them! There are plenty of questions, you won’t soon run out.

This math curriculum is designed to support your existing math curriculum not to replace it. I usually use mental math are part of our opening activities.

Mental Math are math questions that can be worked out in one’s head. Often, they are two part questions which involve a multiplication or division question first, followed by an addition or subtraction question next. When you add in fractions, decimals and percents, you can easily see how complex the questions can become.

One thing about math is that it is exact. 12 x 4 = 48. Always. It isn’t maybe 47 or sometimes 49, it’s simply 48. That’s one thing I love about math. There’s one right answer. Or is there? What you ever tried math the Waldorf way? Instead of asking what is 3 x 4? You can ask what makes 12? When you ask the second question, you can have an infinite number of answers! Each answer is exact and right, but now instead of just having one right answer, you have several right answers.

I recognize that the mental math sheets may be too basic or too advanced for your child. Here are some tips on how to use it:
Too basic: That’s okay, it’s still working and gives your student some small wins.
Too advanced: Skip it! Don’t worry if your child doesn’t know this math, or doesn’t know how to do multiple operations. Simplify the questions or skip them.
We haven’t learned this yet: Take the opportunity to teach the math in a basic way, but minimally. We don’t want to derail your goals. Or skip those problems.
Just right, but not enough: Double up on daily mental math. You can reuse these sheets year after year! While grades 1-3 have a total of 72 weeks worth of math, each day only has four questions. 
When my children were young (1-3 grade), I only did 2-4 questions a day. 
When my children were 5-8th grade, they were doing 6-10 questions a day.

Times Table | Chalk Drawing


In our Waldorf inspired homeschool, we start off our year with our main lesson blocks in Math or Grammar. This year we are working on the times table primarily and since we want to take the year to master it (though it will likely take longer realistically), we are starting those lessons right from the start. For this unit, I’ve drawn a large multiplication table on the chalkboard and made it colorful for the sake of beauty and practicality. It’s my hope that my 9-year-old daughter will be able to use the table to help with math and quickly identify answers by following up or across the board with ease because of the colors. I also hope that the colors will help with skip counting and memory, but in my experience, the one thing that helps best with memorizing the times table is rhythmic clapping, skip counting and singing the times table. If each of the 12 times has a different chant or rhythm or song, that helps tremendously.

Today’s chalk drawing was inspired by two posts on Instagram. The first is Della at The Beauty of Play and the other is by Steiner Teacher. Both posts had either number charts or times tables drawn in beautiful colors. When you color math this way, you honor the beauty that is intrinsic in math and you invite the students to partake in that beauty as well. When the chalk drawing was complete, I added some of the games and books we will use throughout this unit. Putting them out and within easy grasp is also an invitation, and the fact that I color coded them too, was simply an addition on my part.

For this chalk drawing, I used Sargent Art Square Chalk pastels from Blick Art Materials. My chalkboard is by Ghent and it is 4’x6′. It used to be a mobile chalkboard on wheels and the chalkboard is double sided with the reverse as a dry erase board, but a few years ago, I decided to mount it on the wall and add more bookshelves below to house our growing collection of books.

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