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Applying the Charlotte Mason Method

“…but there is no subject [mathematics] in which the teacher has a more delightful consciousness of drawing out from day to day new power in the child” (Vol. 1, 261).

Ideas never stand alone, rather they are all connected, building on and flowing out of each other. Mathematics is no exception. In a math lesson, we want to come alongside our student. Together we recall previously learned concepts. We then examine them and their connections to the new concept that will be studied in the current lesson.

Include an inspiring thought in the lesson. This concept is what Charlotte Mason calls “a Captain idea”. These vary in each lesson and with each student. A few “Captain Ideas” are listed below:

- The mathematical idea, itself
- An interesting problem
- The history of a mathematician
- The history of the concept
- A word study
- A shorter way of solving a problem
- An inspiring quote

As with every subject in a Charlotte Mason education, helping the child see that which is worth observing is an integral part of the process. Just as you help your student to truly see something on a nature walk, during picture study, or even during reading lessons, asking the same types of questions during a math lesson is invaluable to problem solving, with the goal of getting the student to talk as much as possible. Questions such as these, which lead to rich conversations, can assist the student in the art of noticing, thinking, wondering, and truly making their math education their own.

- “What do you notice about these problems?”
- “Do you see any shortcuts to solve that problem?”
- “Do you see any patterns?”
- “Does this remind you of anything?”

Even though lessons are short in a Charlotte Mason education, completing math lessons with multiple students on multiple levels can take quite a bit of time if done individually. We can still go at each student’s pace, meeting him where he is, while also working with other students at the same time. You can listen in for an example group math lesson that Emily did for A Delectable Education. It may give you an idea of how to structure math with multiple students in your home. For a list of “Math At-the-Ready” ideas, see this document. These may give you, the parent and/or teacher, some thoughts on what students can do while waiting for assistance.

When thinking about math lessons for a student, consider the current concept being studied and ideas that need to be reviewed.

During the new idea time, the student is working on a concept just learned. This is the most teacher-intensive time, where the student is learning and assimilating a new idea and when he or she needs the most assistance from the teacher.

During the time for review, one idea is to choose a page of interesting problems that is a review of concepts that the student has learned in the past. The student has the assigned page to be working on throughout the week during the review time. This way, the commonly asked question, “What do I do next?” isn’t heard as often. Something else that could be completed in the review time are activities from “Math At-The-Ready.” These are review concepts that the student can complete independently of the teacher.

In a Charlotte Mason math education, mental math also has great importance. During the mental math time, quick problems are given orally in order for the student to practice fluency in math.

When planning for our own children, no two lessons are the same; nor do we follow the same order every day. For example, sometimes the review time comes first and then we work on the new idea of the day. Sometimes, we do the new concept, followed by the review time. Sometimes, mental math is done with individual students; sometimes it is a group activity with siblings. Mix it up and keep it fresh!

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