Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Math Happens

When we talk about unschooling and what it means, the most common question people seem to have is about math. I mean, how on earth will a child be able to learn math without sitting down and memorizing a bunch of math facts? What about fractions and algebra and geometry and, and, and...

The truth is, math happens and it happens a lot and it happens everyday. Just try to avoid it. Even without a single lesson, we can't help but learn math.

Princess informed me today that one of her friends is 5 and that means that this friend is 2 years younger. I haven't had her sit down to memorize 7 - 5 = 2 but she knows it. This is just one of countless examples that happen throughout our days.

While brushing Princess' hair, math happened again. You see, she doesn't like when I turn her to get to different sides of her hair. She wants me to tell her how to move or turn. Telling her to face the wall or turn left/right wasn't really working for her.

Enter fractions. Princess was interested, so we talked about quarter, half and three-quarter turns. I can ask her to turn one quarter turn or one half turn. I can specify right or left.  Now she knows exactly where to turn.

One day I started talking about degrees of a circle and relating the fractions to degrees. Well, Princess thought that was pretty cool. Now she knows what a 90 degree turn is...and a 180 degree turn...and a 360 degree turn.

No workbooks. No lessons. Simply curiosity. Math happens.


  1. I agree! Put a worksheet of addition and subtraction in front of Daughter and she'll draw a blank.

    Ask her how much gold she'll have leftover after buying her new pet on World of Warcraft and it's a no brainer.

    Personally, I learned fractions from baking.

    You're so right, Math happens.

    Great post! :D

  2. It is so true...they can do amazing math when it's relevant and when it matters.

    I remember sitting in algebra and geometry thinking that I was never going to use any of it. And I was right. I don't remember things I learned in school, but I can't help but remember the math that happens all around me everyday. :)

  3. You're right, it's all about the application! My kids too, even though they get the worksheets and flashcards, it's when they use math in real life situations that the lightbulb starts flickering.

  4. Very cool, Aliceson! Thanks so much for sharing that!! When I have my rare moment of doubt, I can look back at this comment and know that it's all okay. :)

  5. OK, we don't really unschool, but those are my favorite kinds of lessons and learning. :) Great job!

  6. Dana, thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting!! :D

    Moments like these are inspirational, aren't they?!

  7. We had the same question the other day, so i sat down to write how it happens in our everyday life on our blog.You do not need paper or worksheets to do it!In fact half of what i did in primary school i cant remember now...but what i learnt freely is still with me.Your so right...YOU CAN NOT AVOID IT!

  8. I absolutely agree with you, WCL! I don't remember much of anything from school. The things that are important to me, relevant to my life, have stuck with me. I think it's more important to know how to access information than to memorize a bunch of facts.