***Please note I am definitely not an expert in Waldorf. These notes are based on my own limited research and I'm very open to correction. I've used references, usually linking directly to the source, where appropriate. ****
The emphasis in a Waldorf education (also referred to as Steiner, in reference to its founder Rudolph Steiner) is not on what information the child can store, but on the child’s journey of self discovery. Kenny Felder says Waldorf "education is guided by two fundamental principles.
- Every person contains the capacities of thinking, feeling, and willing (symbolized by the phrase "head, heart, and hands"). While traditional schools focus almost exclusively on the first, a Waldorf school brings the three capacities to maturity together.
- A child goes through a number of specific, well-defined stages on the road to adulthood. (The Waldorf folks have a whole system, similar in some ways to Piaget's famous progression, but more spiritual in nature.) Developmentally appropriate experiences nurture the child and his growth."
“Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives. The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility — these three forces are the very nerve of education.” -Rudolph Steiner
The Waldorf Education method has its own curriculums specific to the developmental stages outlined by Steiner and based around nature, art, folk stories and understanding of self (see here or here for more info). Home made math will compliment these curriculums with the use of hands on problem solving and artistic maths, but it is not a dedicated Waldorf curriculum.
For example in the Jungle Book Unit we use Asian ruins as method to explore symmetry, in The Little House in the Big Woods we use quilt design to examine area and in Charlotte’s Web we encourage artistic representation (along with manipulatives) as an aid to problem solving. In all the activities the intent is to make using mathematics an inspiring and memorable experience.
If you’ve been following this series on educational styles you already know that home made math is open ended and encourages the student to estimate, create their own methods to solve and test their solutions. This supports Steiner’s pedagogy, enabling the child to create their own understanding of how the world works.
Home made math can be used as a fun series of activities to support the math you are already doing in the Waldorf curriculum. In fact, although I don’t have a lot of experience with Waldorf materials, in what I’ve seen I have noticed there could be room for more practical hands on maths to support the beautifully presented book work. My hope is that home made math will complement your educational philosophy and fill that gap.
Do you use Waldorf curriculum? What has been your experience of Waldorf mathematics?