Grade 3: Why Handwork & Housebuilding? (#215)


A Year in the Life: Ambient Math Wins the Race to the Top!
Day 215

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 post will focus on the special needs that arise for the 9 year old in Grade 3.  As the growing child makes first forays out into the world, a dual need arises, that of autonomy and authority.  Here is an excerpt from the Math By Hand Grade 3 binder.

“There are many “practice runs” at leaving the world of childhood. At age 9, this feeling of “leaving the garden” can be quite strong, and may bring insecurities and fears as well as a deeper questioning of authority. Dependence and innocence are slowly on the wane, as a newfound sense of autonomy begins to take root.

Though this is usually accompanied by the questioning of authority, the need for authority and reassurance in some ways is greater now than ever. At 9, there’s a new beginning, a learning to walk in the world as a responsible and caring member of the community. Just as when a toddler is learning to walk, much loving support is needed at this time. Some of this support can come from creation stories like Genesis, from the Bible’s Old Testament, as well as those of other cultures.

An echo of “leaving the garden” is found in these words, along with much reassuring evidence that life goes on. Strong authority figures, and those continually grappling with matters of conscience and responsibility are featured in these stories, providing a bright and guiding beacon through the sometimes thorny thicket of growing up.

With the safety and security of the garden left behind, a compelling need now arises to provide for the self and others, to build a house for shelter, to grow good food for sustenance, while acquiring the tools for doing these things. House building and farming are taught, as well as time and measurement. A warm, comfortable circle is formed, reaffirming again and again that all is well.

Glimpses into the ways many cultures meet the complexities and challenges of living independently on the earth help to establish an assured confidence deep within the children themselves, that they too will be able to meet these same challenges.”

Besides housebuilding, an emphasis is placed on the practical tools each culture crafts for survival and well-being.  The Math By Hand housebuilding and survival crafts stories come from five North American Indian regions, the Arctic, the Northwest Coast, California, the Great Plains, and the Southwest.

The Northern California Karoks and Yuroks used hand-tied nets secured to boulders on both banks of a rushing river to catch salmon and other fish.  After hearing a story of how these nets were tied and used, a smaller version could be made and used for a practical purpose.


In our highly technological and prefabricated modern age, handwork can be an invaluable tool for instilling purpose and meaning, as well as pride of craftsmanship and self-empowerment.  As I once advised homeschooling parents, “Be Amish for your third graders.”  If only for that brief window of time, share with your children the creation of the crafts and tools that have enabled us as humans to live on this earth.

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 again tomorrow for more Grade 3 fun! 


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