Educating the Whole Child – Logical and Mathematical Learning

Waldorf educators aim to teach children proficiency in each of nine intelligences while recognizing individual children’s gifts in these areas.

I hate Math.  I’m not any good at it.  It’s just memorization. Why do I have to learn Algebra? I’ll never use it in real life.

Sound familiar?

Among other things, this attitude may stem from, or may be a product of, a misguided math curriculum.

That same child, however, may sit on the floor of the gift shop and count each cent of their allowance – tallying what is there and what is needed for a much-desired toy.

Why the disconnect? As discussed earlier, young children learn by imitation and experience. In Waldorf Education when children are initially introduced to mathematics in the first and second grade, not through memorization, but imagination and application, math is revealed as a useful and real part of everyday life. For example, each number 0-12 is introduced to the children through an imaginative story, artistic rendering and manipulatives. After the numbers, the four processes are introduced where stories are told of each process in a characteristic fashion so that the children grasp the concept through their feeling for the process. These two important steps combined, draw the whole child in as he or she integrates mathematical concepts into their everyday life.

Once the child is drawn in, memorization becomes the next important step as each child integrates the mathematical facts necessary to move to the next level.

Waldorf children hold the things as they add, subtract, multiply and divide, learn intervals through music, see geometry through paper folding, and understand measurement through woodwork. These types of experiences in Math, like the one for the child in the gift shop, hold importance and drive a student’s need and desire to learn math.

Logic is fostered in the same way as the children learn science through experience and experimentation. Cause and effect and deduction are taught through hands-on studies of materials and top-down tackling of classroom projects. Only when the teacher sees that the class is developmentally ready, do students learn theoretical math and science.

We’ll look next at how a Waldorf education fosters body/ kinesthetic intelligence.

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