Waldorf Blocks & Introduction: The Grade 3 Year (#181)


A Year in the Life: Ambient Math Wins the Race to the Top!
Day 181

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 excerpts from the Math By Hand Grade 3 Binder: the Grade 3 overview and suggested block plan for the year.

Creation stories are told in Grade 3, and many examples given of how we humans as a whole have “gotten on” in the world. As the gate to childhood’s garden closes more decisively at age 9, the joys of newfound independence and self-reliance mix with some sadness around an accompanying loss of innocence. Hearing stories of how humanity as a whole has surmounted this archetypal loss can lessen these often tumultuous feelings. It’s reassuring to the 9 year old, as s/he faces the daunting task of growing up, to know that others have succeeded at it, gaining independence and freedom in the process. Time and measurement are helpful tools at this stage of the growth process, and so are taught in depth now.

In Grade 2, lower case letters were learned, and reading skills strengthened by writing out the stories as they were told. Grade 3 brings cursive script writing and more direct approaches to reading. Children are encouraged to read on their own, and given decoding tools. The parts of speech are introduced in an imaginative and concrete way. In math, long multiplication and division are taught with colorful and oversized columns and numbers. Patterns and form drawings are integrated, since finding patterns as an aspect of math fosters interest and creativity, while providing reinforcement of knowledge and skills. Familiar (now math-friendly) games integrate learning with highly motivational fun. The times tables are still a focus, since they’re essential to understanding fractions, decimals, and yes, even algebra! 

As the child grows away from childhood, s/he develops an increasing capacity for abstract reasoning.  Note that until age 12-14, which both Steiner and Piaget (among other child development advocates) designate as the borderline for learning abstractly vs. concretely, the child’s increasing appetite for knowing about the world must still be cloaked in the arts.

Here is a block teaching schedule for the Grade 3 year from the Math By Hand binder.

September . . . Creation Stories / Cursive Writing
October . . . Math
November . . . Timekeeping / Writing & Reading
December . . . Housebuilding / Gardening
January . . . Math / Parts of Speech
February . . . Creation Stories / Writing & Reading
March . . . Measurement / Writing & Reading
April . . . Housebuilding / Gardening
May . . . Math / Parts of Speech
June . . . Class Play

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. More Grade 3 tomorrow!


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