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. Today’s standards will be listed in blue, followed by its ambient counterpart.
Measurement and Data 2.MD
Measure and estimate lengths in standard units.
1. Measure the length of an object by selecting and using appropriate tools, such as rulers, yardsticks, meter sticks, and measuring tapes.
2. Measure the length of an object twice, using length units of different lengths for the two measurements; describe how the two measurements relate to the size of the unit chosen.
3. Estimate lengths using units of inches, feet, centimeters, and meters.
4. Measure to determine how much longer one object is than another, expressing the length difference in terms of a standard length unit.
Measurement and time are not taught directly in the Waldorf method until Grade 3. Why? Here is an excerpt from the Common Core Kindergarten and Grade 1 measurement standards that may explain the reasoning behind the wait.
As with many other elements, exposure to time and measurement will most likely happen way before third grade, but its formal introduction doesn’t happen till then. The reasoning is that the child crosses a significant boundary at age 9. Just as a readiness for learning becomes optimal at age 7, the first real steps out of the garden of childhood are taken two years later, at 9. Creation stories are told in third grade, as the child’s powers of reasoning develop alongside a beginning recognition of the realities of growing up.
As a thread that runs through most cultures’ creation stories, the expulsion from the garden is a theme that reflects this stage of development. Teaching practical things like housebuilding and farming / gardening are perfect at this time, because that’s how we collectively learned to live on the earth on our own, after leaving our respective gardens. Time and measurement fit this context nicely and for now, aspects of it can be shown and absorbed (rather than taught and learned) in a purely experiential and playful way.
Lessons and activities aligned to the above standards could easily slip into busy work. The essence of time and measurement needs to be relayed through anecdotal and historical stories before the particulars are taught and learned. For instance, the stories of how units of measurement came about and evolved are essential building blocks to a right method of teaching this subject. Here’s an excerpt from the Math By Hand Grade 3 binder, a description of where the term “yard” originated:
Yard comes from the German gierd (pronounced gyard) meaning girth, to encircle. One theory is that the yard originated as the waist measurement of the king (36 inches). Another is that King Henry I of England decreed that a yard should be equal to the distance between his nose and extended thumb!
It could be noted that the latter method is used to estimate the length of a yard to this day. And that the term yard (as in back yard and front yard) also fits this description by encircling the house. In contrast, please see the worksheet below. It’s a good example of measurement taken out of the context of the human story and how we relate to what we discover, invent, and use.
Knowledge ensues in an environment dedicated to imaginative, creative knowing, where student and teacher alike surrender to the ensuing of knowledge as a worthy goal. Tune in tomorrow for the more Common Core measurement standards and their ambient counterparts.
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