Monday, August 20, 2012

Chapter 4: Mathematics

Ugh. Math. I've never really liked it, and it has never really liked me:) Knowing I will be teaching math to my littles has certainly given me the impetus to find a way to approach it which I will enjoy teaching, and will inspire a love of numbers for them. This chapter on Math doesn't give a whole lot to go on, CM-wise, but it has some key points to consider.

First, there is an inevitable nature to math, laws that cannot be broken. Two and two will always be four. That understand of truth and beauty, and our human limitations in a very ordered and mathematical world, is inspiring. Actually, this high level of order is something I have spent a lot of time considering, and the rational nature of math can really help us understand God, in some ways, I think. He has crafted a universe which is awe-inspiring in its level of detail, and math is a part of that, in many, many ways. People are made to know God, to want to seek Him. And math (and science) can be key ways to do that.

The habits mathematical study engenders are of huge value to a student: insight, readiness, accuracy, intellectual truthfulness, development of reasoning powers. These habits have a lot to do with attention. In reading, for example, if my attention span has wandered during a paragraph of reading, I can figure out what I've missed by picking up clues along the way. But with math, if you have missed a detail, you are headed down the path with the wrong answer. Focus is all important here.

Miss Mason herself had a few things to say about math, that there should be attention given by the teacher to problems which the student can solve, but that will stretch his brain a bit. Also, everything that can be demonstrated should be, and that careful documenting of work increases the odds of landing on the correct answer. Math should be addressed daily.

Beyond that, this book does not suggest a particular curriculum, a sequence of topics to address, or even any details about how teachers should approach math with students. So we're on our own a bit on this one! I think there's a tendency in CM circles (perhaps even from Miss Mason herself?) to downplay math a bit, to agree student need basics, algebra, maybe a bit of higher math. But I think that seems limiting. Certainly, if we have a child with a natural facility for numbers, I would guide her to attempt more challenging levels of math. But I think sometimes math gets the short end of the stick in general, in CM education, because the focus is so heavy on living books and the disciplines they work easily into.

I never did like math. I never thought I was good at it. But I think it was, to a large degree, a question of habits, instruction, and materials, and I am looking forward to changing all of that with my children, for me and for them!

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