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    Educational Philosophy, Home Education

    Welcome to Math Week! {Series Introduction}

    November 5, 2012 by Brandy Vencel

    Math. It’s quite a conundrum, no matter your philosophy. For a long time, I thought, like many other Charlotte Mason fans, that Charlotte Mason was weak on math. Many times, this belief translates into the homeschool itself being weak on math! While it is true that the majority of her educational writings focus on more literary aspects, a glance at the PNEU schedules shows that this did not carry over into her classrooms. By the time students were in Form III, they were doing arithmetic, mental arithmetic, Euclid, and Euclid memory work, which added up to 170 minutes per week.

    Math.jpgKeep in mind that Form III corresponds to our junior high, not high school.

    I think a couple things trip us up when it comes to math.

    First, I think we mistakenly take Charlotte’s comparative silence on math to mean that she views it as less in importance. It is more likely that she didn’t think that her peers were making the same grievous mistakes with mathematics that they were making with things like history and literature. Consider that in her sixth and final volume, Miss Mason wrote:

    It is unnecessary to exhibit mathematical work done in the P.U.S. as it is on the same lines and reaches the same standard as in other schools.

    Whereas her work in history and literature were unique contributions to the world of education, her math was similar to the math of her day.

    Charlotte’s students were not allowed to specialize. She believed in a broad, general education. Math was an important part of such an education then, and it still is today.

    Second, I think that many of us did not have good math teachers, and we really do not know what to do when our children begin to struggle. In our family, the problems have {so far} come earlier rather than later {though admittedly we are not old enough for advanced forms of math as we have only reached the fifth grade}. I think hitting bumps early is probably easier than having problems suddenly rear their ugly heads later on. What are we supposed to do?

    Since Charlotte Mason believed that the student’s success in mathematics was tied to the teacher rather than any particular book, this is worth asking. Today, I can tell you what one teacher did:

    Betsy was reciting her arithmetic. She was getting on famously with that. Weeks ago, as soon as Miss Benton had seen the confusion of the little girl’s mind, the two had settled down to a serious struggle with that subject. Miss Benton had had Betsy recite all by herself, so she wouldn’t be flurried by the others; and to begin with had gone back, back, back to bedrock, to things Betsy absolutely knew, to the 2 x 2’s and the 3 x 3’s. And then, very cautiously, a step at a time, they had advanced, stopping short whenever Betsy felt a beginning of that bewildered “guessing” impulse which made her answer wildly at random.

    After a while, in the dark night which arithmetic had always been to her, Betsy began to make out a few definite outlines, which were always there, facts which she knew to be so without guessing from the expression of her teacher’s face. From that moment her progress had been rapid, one sure fact hooking itself on to another, and another one on to that. She attacked a page of problems now with a zest and self-confidence which made her arithmetic lessons among the most interesting hours at school.

    Is this not what we hope for our own students?

    This week, we’ll talk about these things … and more! What did Charlotte Mason really say about math? What do we do when things go wrong? And what in the world is this about Euclid? It’s going to be great fun.

    Here is the Math Week Table of Contents, which I’ll keep coming back to and linking up as the week goes on. For now, perhaps the post titles will whet your appetites.

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  • Reply Margaret July 11, 2017 at 9:09 am

    Hello! I love when I “happen” upon a page that takes me closer to my dreams. I am especially excited to see a the JOIN ME OVER AT …SCHOLE SISTERS. I am a Schole homeschool group director and would like to add Euclid’s geometry to one of our days. I am thankful that the Math Week posts are still available!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 11, 2017 at 11:31 am

      ♥ Well, welcome to Afterthoughts, Margaret! It sounds like you will fit right in around here. 🙂

  • Reply Sarah November 14, 2012 at 3:19 am

    I just finished reading her sixth volume last night and was talking with my husband about just this idea, Was CM really soft on math? We agree with what you have said, we do not think she was. However you have brought up a few things I missed as I looked in her writings. I am more artsy and literary and barely made it through algebra myself in school so thinking of Euclid seems daunting, but it may not be as bad as it appears. So I am looking forward to the series! I am always amazed at what kids can do in many areas. Yesterday I came to drawing assignment in our drawing curriculum and thought o dear how will they ever do this. But I simply put the shoe on the table and gave them freedom to try to draw it. Away they went and I was so impressed with the results. Hoping math is the same.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts November 14, 2012 at 3:39 am

      You will have to let me know once you get a chance to read the Euclid posts, but I wonder if you would like Euclid *more* than other types of math because it is more philosophical/literary than other types of math? I don’t know; I’m just speculating.

  • Reply Mahers Hill Academy November 6, 2012 at 2:41 am

    You’ve inspired me – I just ordered a copy of Euclid. I’m intrigued and looking forward to these posts! Math is something I’ve never been good at or liked, but just reading the reviews on Amazon for Euclid made me think I’m missing out on something wonderful that I don’t understand.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts November 6, 2012 at 2:48 pm

      You have articulated exactly how I started to feel about Euclid about a year ago–that I was “missing out on something wonderful that I don’t understand.” You will have to let me know what you think! I’ve been very slowly going through an online copy, but recently decided I really need to get a hard copy and keep a notebook…

  • Reply The Boojes November 6, 2012 at 2:36 am

    As a former math teacher (junior high) and new-to-homeschooling mama of a 5 year-old, I’m looking forward to this series. Thank you!

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts November 6, 2012 at 2:47 pm

      I’m thrilled that you are excited! When I first got this idea, I thought that perhaps a whole week focused on math would totally flop, but I was so intrigued, and wanted so badly to hear from these ladies, that I thought I’d do it anyhow, even if only a few of us were interested. I’m happy that you’re engaged, too! 🙂

  • Reply Meredith in Aus November 6, 2012 at 2:01 am

    I hope someone mentions paying for learning Times Tables! I generally work from the perspective of *learning is its own reward* but that just hasn’t panned out with times tables. If a child hasn’t enjoyed learning it (and so just hasn’t put sufficient effort in), by the time he realises just how much he needs them, he is rather disabled in his higher work. After a spectacular failure with my eldest, I resorted to the carrot and stick! (Will you still speak to me ;oP )

    Looking forward to this series.

    In Him


    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts November 6, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      Ohmigoodness, yes I will still speak to you!

      We can hold up ideals on the one hand but, on the other, face the reality that sometimes the carrot really *is* necessary with particular children!

      And, in the end, we all have to muddle through sometimes, don’t we?

    • Reply Meredith in Aus November 12, 2012 at 3:14 am

      I hope that didn’t come across badly, Brandy. I truly didn’t think you wouldn’t speak to me. Just the Aussie sense of humour. :o)

      In Him


    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts November 12, 2012 at 3:22 am


  • Reply Tiffany November 5, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    Ha! We read that very chapter of Understood Betsy last night. Looking forward to your series!

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts November 5, 2012 at 11:49 pm

      I love that book! I notice something new each time I read it. 🙂

      One of the things I appreciate about AO is that 90% of the Y1-Y3 books are not books I tire of reading over and over, which makes it easier to keep doing school with younger children without making changes. 🙂

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