Word problems: the bane of many a math student’s existence? Perhaps one of the problems with word problems is that they don’t seem to stand on their own two feet as stories, since the plots and characters are most often abstract and subservient to the numbers or the problem itself. Though word problems do sharpen logical, abstract thinking skills as well as hone mental discipline, they most often fall short as stories!
Reading comprehension plays a big role in success with word problems, as does strategizing, and success with word problems can build a strong foundation for understanding higher math concepts. So, it is important to offer encouragement and help with the skills needed to master increasingly complex and challenging word problems.
There are other kinds of stories however, that are essential to creating a friendly environment in your homeschool math curriculum. An environment that circumvents math fears or phobias and promotes interest and enthusiasm in and for the subject is paramount! The love of math is the best recipe for success and retention.
The Waldorf method incorporates this sort of story telling along with other arts, not for the purpose of embellishing math or other subjects, but to truly deepen them. You can instill a wonderful understanding from the very beginning, with learning the numbers themselves. To this end, the quality of numbers is taught in the Waldorf first grade, through stories, art, and geometric form drawing. The number 1 can be represented by the sun or moon, embodied in a story that features one or both. The sun and/or moon is illustrated along with other simple elements of the story, and the circle can be extrapolated from the story and illustrated alongside the number.
The number 4 in contrast, is archetypically represented by the square and reflects a more earthly orientation. So a story about a house would be fitting, with an illustration featuring the square house and other simple elements of the story. The simple square itself could be illustrated alongside the number.
All of the numbers from 1 – 12 can be introduced in this way. Most likely your first grader will already be familiar with numbers and counting, but s/he will not have met them formally. This is an opportunity to do just that, so a heartfelt connection can be made. The otherwise abstract, dry numbers then take on a truly human, “friendly” quality. A feeling connection to the numbers is developed, and a deep interest is woven like a golden thread through all future encounters with math.