Since I first heard about the idea of 'living math" I loved it! I loved the idea of including stories about mathematicians into our discovery of arithmetic. Reading about other people's passions often ignites passion in us and I wanted my boys to know other people in history have had a passion for numbers. I want them to wonder why and perhaps catch the passion for themselves. I love doing math incrementally line upon line working towards mastery of a concept before moving on. I love going at their pace. I loved not having to give them a text book. Mostly I just did not want my kids to hate math. I want them to get it and master it however deep they go in it.
"Living math" is a kind of vague idea to many, and though Charlotte Mason did say a fair bit about it in her writing I found myself stabbing in the dark, adding pieces of her method here and there in our home education but never having a solid feeling I really know what I was doing. Maybe I am not alone here. So this week when I found in my inbox the weekly post from Simply Charlotte Mason announcing they were putting out a manual about living math I was on it. I have had some rich afternoons since then and now pouring over all the quotes and helpful practical tips of how to do it.
Basically as I read through the e-book pages I have felt affirmed that my thinking about math, not to mention those little gut decisions that I made not knowing were right along with Charlotte! yeah! I also have found little things to add, tweak or wish I could redo because ahhh here is the answer I needed two years ago! If you have ever wondered about living math and wanted to know just what it is and how to do it or if you have wanted a scope a sequence to help you plan your own journey into arithmetic then you might want to read this e-book: Mathematics: an Instrument for living Teaching
One of the very first things which intrigued me was the title. How is mathematics a tool for living teaching? It comes from this quote from Charlotte's writings:
“I need not touch upon the subject of Mathematics. It is receiving ample attention, and is rapidly becoming an instrument for living teaching in our schools” (Vol. 3, p. 236).How is mathematics a tool for living teaching? The answer is very cool. Charlotte used math to build mental and moral habits. Habits like accuracy, reasoning powers and intellectual truthfulness. Though she did not discount that it had usefulness for everyday life her focus was on the habits it established. This was a refreshing idea for me and a new way of answering to myself why do we do math?
"The practical value of arithmetic to persons in every class of life goes without remark. But the use of the study in practical life is the least of its uses. The chief value of arithmetic, like that of the higher mathematics, lies in the training it affords to the reasoning powers, and in the habits of insight, readiness, accuracy, intellectual truthfulness it engenders” (Vol. 1, p. 254).So, inspired now with a new reason for doing math I began to understand better what living math is and how to go about it. I felt affirmed in my gut desire for certain ways of doing our math assignments, like my desire to have a neat math page was not picky it was important. It had a purpose to build something of value beyond that simple act. And getting the right answer was no longer just me being tough on them it was right and building in them a good habit of accuracy and intellectual truthfulness. Charlotte helped me see why I valued these things and gave me permission and a framework to continue in them.
"In my reading of Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series, I noticed Charlotte used words I had never applied to the study of mathematics—words like joy, beauty, truth, and awe." -Richele BaburinaTo build these mental and moral habits Charlotte recommended using a curriculum which had these following characteristics: (from Mathematics: An Instrument for living teaching page 97-98)
Provide for careful progression. We want a gradual unfolding of ideas, not
simply a “getting through” of a course of study.
Work well with a number of manipulatives in the introduction of concepts
but not be shackled to them for the entire course of study.
Not require expensive or complicated apparatus or work with only one
type of manipulative. The child should be able to separate the facts from
the objects used, so being able to utilize a variety of everyday objects is best.
- Not drown the subject in too much verbiage.
Give examples that are interesting and aimed at reality; money sums and
those involving the familiar are best.
Give examples that, while interesting, are not too difficult.
Give examples that work well with oral work. Children’s work in Charlotte’s
classrooms was largely oral in the earlier years, and continuous oral practice
was still given in later years.
Assist the child in arriving at the method of solving problems or making
Facilitate reasoning powers not just mechanical ability.
Allow for short lessons, no longer than 20 minutes in the earlier years and
30 minutes in the junior high or high school years.
- Allow you to adjust the pace for your child.
Allow for mastery of concepts. Securing your child’s understanding is a
must before proceeding to the next concept.
Allow for adequate review. Once a concept is mastered it will still need a
sufficient review, and having examples of varying difficulty is best if your child progresses rapidly or for review the following term or year.
"If you don’t have a strong grasp of mathematics, please do not despair. Don’t be surprised if, as you begin applying Charlotte’s methods in mathematics, you also start seeing the reason behind the facts, discovering new relationships, and experiencing joy and delight while obtaining more mathematical understanding yourself. " -Richele author of Mathematic:A Tool for Living TeachingLast summer I fell in love with a wonderful turn of the century math book written by Emma Serl who also authored Primary Language Lesson, a grammar study I think Charlotte would have loved. She may have loved Everyday Number Stories too for as I read through the e-book and the list above it kept occurring to me how well that this little free book fits into living math education she was writing about like a hand into a glove. By working through this math book with the boys I found real joy in math for the first time, for I saw the relationships between multiplication, division, addition, subtraction and fractions. Really fun! But more than that the real life problems and stories were easily made practical by using ordinary things around the house to explain and bring alive the abstract math. They enveloped measuring, turning problem inside out and upside down looking at an addition problem and making it into a fractions problem. Best of all it made us all think circumspectly about math in its beautiful rudiments.
I have more to read, more to implement and if this subject will be like any other Charlotte Mason methods I have implemented they will be a success.