A Year in the Life: Ambient Math Wins the Race to the Top!
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. Because the Common Core Grade 1 Math Standards address addition and subtraction exclusively, they will appear here later, in conjunction with the blocks that focus on the 4 processes. Earlier math blocks focus on meeting the numbers up close and personal through stories, movement, art, form drawing, and hands-on activities like making real numbers. The numbers should come together for calculation only after an in-depth introduction has established them as friendly and personable, so essential for circumventing math fears and phobias!
Starting tomorrow, before leaving the realm of meeting the numbers 1-12 through stories, a detour into the Common Core Grade 1 Language Arts Standards will begin. As analytical and direct as these standards are, my posts over the next several days will attempt to show how the Waldorf method’s whole-to-parts approach can accomplish more in the long run, while also keeping the desire to learn with joy, excitement and enthusiasm alive through story, art, and movement. To whet your appetite, here is the story Math By Hand pairs with the number 3, a fairy tale from France called “The Prince in the Black Scarf.”
Knowledge ensues in an environment dedicated to imaginative, creative knowing, where student and teacher alike surrender to the ensuing of that knowledge as a worthy goal.
Once upon a time there lived a very wealthy King of France. He was very wise and was loved by all his people. He had a beautiful Queen who gave him a son. The Prince grew into a handsome youth. He soon reached his seventeenth year. But then the Prince fell into bad company, drinking and gambling. The people of the Kingdom feared he would never make a good King when his father died. “Your son must be taught a lesson,” said the elders of the city to the King. The first time they complained, the King ordered the Prince to be given a hundred lashes, but he soon fell back into his old ways.. The second time they complained, he was whipped and sent to prison for one year. Again he returned to his bad friends. The third time the elders complained the King promised that his son would be executed. The elders tried to calm him, but the King was deter-mined. The Queen ran to find the Prince first. “Here is a bag of gold, your sword, and your horse. Go out into the world and find your true path. I do not want to see you again until you do.” The following morning the Queen told the King what she had done. The King was not angry but he said that if his son returned, he would send him to the gallows as he had promised. Meanwhile the Prince had ridden far across the Kingdom. He stopped to spend the night in a clearing in a forest. As he sat, he saw a hawk swoop down and catch a mouse. Then a vixen dashed out of the bushes and caught the hawk. Suddenly an arrow flew through the air, killing the vixen. As the huntsman rode up and leaned out of the saddle to pick up the fox, the string on his bow snapped. It flicked against his horse and made him bolt. The hunter was unseated but his foot was caught in the stirrup dragging him along. This all happened so quickly, the Prince did not have time to move. He thought carefully about what he had seen. He realized that one bad deed could only lead to another and that his father had been right to punish him. The Prince decided to change his ways. The following morning he sold his horse and gave all his money to the poor. He kept his sword and he put a tattered cloak over his fine clothes and put a black scarf over his head with holes for his eyes, nose, and mouth. After walking for seven weeks, the Prince found himself by a hut in the middle of a forest. A hermit lived in the hut. “Welcome, Prince of France,” he said to the Prince. “How do you know who I am?” asked the surprised Prince. “I know who you are and why you are here,” said the hermit. “Now leave me your sword, your fine clothes, and your scarf. Put on these old clothes, go to the end of this path and find work with the farmer there.” After seven days’ walk the Prince came to a farm. The farmer there took him on as a swineherd. He took the pigs every day to a field by the sea. One day, while he was there with the pigs, he heard a scream come from the edge of the forest, and he saw an old woman. Her goat was being dragged away by a wolf. The good Prince clubbed the wolf with his crook so that it dropped the goat and ran. “Thank you, Prince,” said the old woman. “When you need help, come to this hollow tree, knock three times and I shall come to your aid.” Then, she and the goat disap-peared in a mist. The Prince returned to the farm that evening to find the farmer with a troubled look on his face. The Prince asked him what was wrong. “A giant is roaming the French countryside. Wherever he goes the countryside dries up. He is turning France into a wasteland.” “Has no one tried to kill him?” asked the Prince. “The have tried, but they have all failed. The giant cannot be destroyed.” The next day, as the Prince was driving the pigs to pasture he stopped by the hollow tree and knocked three times. At his third knock, a beautiful girl appeared. “Good day, Prince,” she said. “I know why you are here. Listen carefully. If you wish to slay the giant you must strike his diamond eye with your sword. Fetch your clothes, sword, and black scarf and follow the midday sun for seven days until you reach a dry plain. Hide inside the ruined castle there and wait. The giant will come as night falls. He will stretch out across the plain and go to sleep. On the stroke of midnight you must strike him with your sword.” With that the girl disappeared. The swineherd said goodbye to the farmer and returned to the hermit’s hut where he collected his belongings. After seven days’ walk, he reached the ruined castle on the plain. As night fell, the giant returned to the plain and lay down to sleep. At the stroke of midnight, the Prince came out of his hiding place and struck the giant in his diamond eye. The giant sighed and then disappeared. All that was left was the diamond eye. The Prince picked up the diamond and, still wearing his black scarf, he took it to the French court. He saw the Queen looking out of the window but she did not see him. “I bring you the diamond eye of the giant, sire,” said the Prince to the King, “as proof of the giant’s death.” “Thank you, man in the black scarf,” said the King. I will reward you with one hun-dred thousand gold coins for slaying the giant.” I do not fight for reward, but for honor,” said the Prince in the black scarf. “If you do not need the money, then give it to the poor.” “I see you are noble as well as brave,” said the King. “Show me your face.” I cannot, sire, replied the Prince. “My father wishes never to see my face again, so I cannot uncover it, even for you.” “Your father should be proud of you,” said the King. My own son is a failure.” “I know him well, sire,” said the Prince. “He has changed a great deal.” “I find that hard to believe,” said the King. “If I lay eyes on him I shall send him straight to the gallows.” The Prince left the King, but he waved once to the Queen. He returned to the hermit at the edge of the forest. “Welcome, Prince,” said the hermit. “How did you get on?” “I killed the giant, and took his diamond eye to my father, the King. But he will not have me back,” said the Prince. “That is because you have not been fully tested,” said the hermit. “Return to your work at the farm.” The Prince left his belongings with the hermit and returned to the farmer and again became a swineherd. He drove the pigs to the meadow by the sea every day. Several weeks passed, and one day as he was sitting watching the pigs, a golden bird settled in the branch above his head. “Good day, Prince,” said the golden bird. “I am the golden bird who will live forever. Every hun-dred years I must have a drink of human blood or I shall die. Good Prince, will you help me, as today it is one hundred years since I last drank?” “Of course, I will help you,” said the Prince. “Fly down and drink.” So saying, the Prince cut his arm and the bird flew down and drank. “Good Prince, when you need my help, come to these woods and clap three times,” said the bird, when it had finished drinking. It then flew away. At the end of the day the Prince returned to the farm. There he found the farmer looking very sad. He asked him what was wrong. “A terrible dragon has come to the land. It is catching people and animals and eating them. Nothing can stop it.” “Hasn’t the King sent soldiers against it?” asked the Prince. “Indeed, but it is too big and strong. It has eaten many of them.” The next morning the Prince drove the pigs to the meadow, but he stopped by the woods and clapped his hands three times. “I know why you are here, Prince,” said the Golden Bird as it appeared on the branch. “Take this feather and put it in your mouth and you will change into a bird. Spit it out and you will change back. The dragon you seek can only be killed by stabbing it through the heart. Follow the midnight moon for seven nights until you reach some mountains. The dragon’s cave is there. You must fly into his open mouth and strike from the inside. Now, goodbye.” The Prince once again said goodbye to the farmer and returned to the hermit where he put on his fine clothes, his sword, and his black scarf. After seven nights of following the midnight moon, he reached the mountains. As night fell, the dragon with a golden crown on its head returned to its cave. It settled itself down to sleep. As its mouth opened the Prince changed into a bird and flew in. He flew down toward the dragon’s heart. There he spat out the feather and the Prince then stabbed the dragon’s heart with his sword. The dragon sighed and disappeared and all that remained was the gold crown. The Prince picked up the golden crown and took it at once to the French court. As he walked in, the Prince saw the Queen by the window. She turned and looked at him. “I have killed the dragon,” said the Prince as he gave his father the dragon’s crown. “Once again, you have done my Kingdom a great service,” said the King. I shall give you two hundred thousand gold coins as a reward.” If you do not need the money, give it to the poor,” said the Prince. I seek honor rather than reward.” “You are still a noble man,” said the King. “Let me see your face.” “Ah, no, your majesty,” said the Prince. “As I said before, I cannot show my face.” “Your father should be proud to have you for a son,” said the King. “My own son is a failure.” “I know him and he has changed,” said the Prince. “Can I not tell him that you would like to see him again?” “No,” cried the King. “If I see him he goes to the gallows.” The Prince turned and left, but he waved to the Queen. He returned to the hermit. “How did you fare?” “I killed the dragon and took its crown to my father, but he still will not have me back.” “That is because you have not been fully tested,” said the hermit. “Return to your work at the farm.” The Prince returned to the farm and again became the farmer’s swineherd. He drove the pigs to the pasture by the sea every day. One day he was sitting watching over the pigs, when a huge bird swooped down and came up with a large golden fish in its claws. The fish struggled to get free but the bird held on tight. So the swineherd leapt up and hit the bird with his crook so that it released the fish. The fish swam up to the Prince. “Thank you, Prince. When you need my help, you must throw three handfuls of sand into the sea, and I shall come.” Then the fish disappeared. The Prince returned to the farm in the evening with the pigs. When he entered the farmhouse, the farmer was looking very miserable indeed. “What’s wrong?” asked the Prince. “A terrible plague is sweeping across the country. The people are dying everywhere. They say that the King and Queen are ill with it.” “Is there no doctor who can help?” asked the Prince. Doc-tors have tried to find a cure, but even they are dying of it,” said the farmer. The next day the Prince said goodbye to the farmer. “I must go,” he said. He then went down to the sea and threw three hand-fuls of sand into the sea. As he threw the last handful the golden fish appeared. I know why you are here, Prince, and I will help you,” said the fish. “You must fetch the Golden Flower with the scent of balsam and plant it in the courtyard of the palace of the French King to rid the country of the plague. But the flower grows on an island in the middle of very rough seas. I will take you to it.” So saying, the fish took the Prince on his back and swam away from the shore across the sea. The seas were rough and stormy, but they finally reached the tiny island. “Go and collect the flower and I shall take you back to shore,” said the golden fish. The Prince leapt off and found the flower with the scent of balsam. He returned with it to the fish. The golden fish swam safely back through the mountainous waves and left the Prince on the beach near the hermit’s hut. Then the golden fish disappeared. The hermit came out of the hut with the Prince’s clothes, his sword, and the black scarf. “You will have to hurry. I have already saddled your horse,” said the hermit. The Prince put on his clothes and the black scarf and mounted the horse. He said farewell and galloped off to the French court. He was standing in the courtyard of the palace in no time. He dug a hole and planted the Golden Flower. Immediately the scent of balsam was everywhere. All the town and the Kingdom came to life again and the plague left the country. The Prince entered the palace. There he saw the Queen by the window. She saw the man in the black scarf and she jumped up. “Welcome, my son, I knew it was you.” She embraced her son fondly. Then the Queen and Prince hurried to the King’s room, where he lay in bed gravely ill. “Welcome, man in the black scarf,” said the King. “What brings you here?” “I have brought the Golden Flower with the scent of balsam to cure the kingdom of the plague.” “Thank you for this great service. I give to you my crown and my Kingdom, for I am old and my son is a failure who will never be King.” “I know him well and you do him an injustice,” said the Prince. “He is no more a failure than I am. He would dearly like to come back to you if you could forgive him.” “If he could be as good a son as you are, then I would forgive him,” said the King. “Then forgive him now,” cried the Prince as he pulled off the black scarf. Then the King recognized his son. He was overjoyed to see him. The old King ruled on and when he died the good Prince took over the reign of the Kingdom. Never was there so just or wise a King of France.