Feb 26, 2022 Grades 1-8 Open House Register Here
The day begins in a grade one Waldorf classroom with bouncing balls.
Students rise and form a circle around the classroom. Each child holds a small rubber ball in hand. The teacher initiates counting, whether simple numerical ascent or in fractions or sequences, and the children respond by bouncing in rhythm to the counting.
Voices rise and swell in unison, the counting a classroom chorus mirrored by the rhythmic bouncing and catching. They begin to pass the balls from student to student, not breaking the rhythm, embodying the lyrical counting physically as well as mentally.
This is one way Waldorf students immerse in mathematics lessons.
By pairing math with movement, students in a Waldorf classroom learn their lessons at a much deeper level than simply by rote textbook work.
Dr. Hiten Lad, a neuropsychologist and Waldorf parent, says that this type of lesson serves to “stimulate the brain in its entirety. When math is being taught oftentimes there is movement involved. This helps students consolidate the math at a deeper level in the brain, which aids with retention.”
Indeed, in Waldorf Education, mathematics pairs not only with movement, but with art and imagination, history and writing, for a full immersion into learning that is unparalleled.
In Grade 1, students learn that numbers exist everywhere in the world, even in nature. By Grade 3, students undertake measuring and the mathematics of the calendar. In Grade 4, fractions become the focus, and in Grade 5, decimals and expressions of fractions come into view. Grade 6 includes business math.
And all the while, different modes of learning complement the mathematical instruction. Students draw geometry and fold paper into geometric shapes. They see, smell and taste how fractions fulfill a pizza
Artistic projects bring mathematics into deeper perception for children. Students learn balance and symmetry by drawing a triangle within a triangle within a triangle. Then, they involve storytelling by looking for “3’s in life” – patterns replicated in the triangle on the paper, and in their living and waking moments.
By marrying modalities, Waldorf students connect left and right brain simultaneously in the classroom. They learn about the people who formed mathematical concepts – the Greeks with the Pythagorean theorem, the Islamic scholar, Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, who is known as the “father of algebra,” the decimal system invented in China.
Students learn the roots of a practice, the history of its founders, its uses in daily life, how it looks on an artistic page. Every aspect of a child’s awareness is called into action when they learn math in a Waldorf classroom and so they not only retain the knowledge, but it helps shape them, as they see all the wider connections of a particular subject.
We do this ostensibly to provide the most compelling learning experience for children. But in doing so, we are inspiring them to become fully formed humans who see the connections across all people, communities and nature, and have a wider, more generous sense of their place in the world.