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.
Common Core proponents claim that its methods promote a deeper (vs a rote or automatic) understanding of math’s underlying principles and logic. This may be true, in that students are required to break down equations into parts in order to see the sense of the operations: what’s really going on with the numbers. The overriding problem though is that the concepts are presented in an abstract rather than concrete way, which results in tears and frustration over a developmentally inappropriate approach. Here’s a typical Common Core worksheet:
Not very friendly is it? Not very clear and way too abstract. “Making 10’s” is a method used as a basic way to see the sense of subtraction. But in this form, it’s quite cold and alienating. Add the pressure of high-stakes testing to this, and it becomes a recipe for disaster.
Waldorf and Math By Hand teach all 4 processes together in the third Grade 1 math block, so that the relationships and characteristics of each process can be discerned early on. The same sort of deeper understanding is achieved, but with much friendlier, less abstract, and very concrete methods. Here is a page from an Earthschooling math main lesson book. Find the book on their website here.
Notice how the number 12 is broken down into factors for dividing. Look familiar? I believe Common Core has the students making the same dots and groupings, but please do see the difference here. There’s color and an engaging backstory, with everything fitting nicely into a whole picture. Perhaps most importantly. this is introduced very early on, enabling an economical understanding that doesn’t need to be repeatedly drilled and tested. Learning it once in first grade is enough!
If all concepts are introduced this way, depth and a love of learning is there. The 4 processes are given names and personalities so math becomes personal and friendly, circumventing any math fears or phobias. As pictured above, gnomes are often used to characterize the 4 processes, but Math By Hand chose 4 children instead.
Notice the dominant traits of each personality in the image below. Plus is green and growing, Minus is sadly blue, losing everything or giving it all away. Divide is red, decisive and fair (note that the sword pictured above is also a division sign). Times is the happy go lucky, more-is-better type, in yellow.
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 more CC math standards and their ambient counterparts.