Quality of Numbers Main Lesson
The first math main lesson block of first grade is completely unique to Waldorf. Unless you went to a Waldorf school yourself, this is new and unfamiliar territory for you! In this post I’ll walk you through the Quality of Numbers block and give you some ideas for how to teach it. This block is a lot of fun! It’s an opportunity to explore the world of numbers in a very hands-on and imaginative way that first graders love (for more background on how to teach math in first grade, see this back post).
What does Quality of Numbers mean?
We usually think of numbers only as quantities. But they're expressed in certain patterns in nature, in music, and in our own bodies, so numbers also have qualities. For example:
There is only one sun, one Earth, one me.
Day and night are expressed as a duality - two.
Clovers have three leaves.
Most mammals walk on four legs (humans are unique - we walk on two!)
Roses and apple flowers have five petals, and there’s a five-pointed star hidden inside the apple.
There are so many more examples. You can go for nature walks and treasure hunts to find the numbers all around you and also see what your child comes up with herself.
Exploring numbers in this way gives your child (and you too!) a chance to look at the world in a new way and make many exciting discoveries.
Here are a few other ideas for working with numbers in this block:
Practice counting forwards and backwards up to 100
Count in different rhythms (stamping on every second or third number)
Take a handful of acorns and count to see how many you have - then discover all the different ways you can arrange that handful into groupings or patterns
Draw a circle and arrange five stones evenly spaced around the circle - then draw lines to connect the stones to make a pentagon and the five-pointed star
Read fairy tales with strong number qualities and learn number verses
Look at all the different ways you can make ten using your fingers
Active Arithmetic!: Movement and Mathematics Teaching in the Lower Grades of a Waldorf School by Henning Andersen is a classic. It’s full of wonderful ideas for games, movement, and capturing the magic and geometry of numbers. Many of the activities described are for groups but can be modified to use at home.
In the Lavender’s Blue First Grade Quality of Numbers main lesson, your child goes on a quest to awaken a sleeping kingdom. The numbers one through twelve are presented through an original container story, with many opportunities for movement, imagination, learning the Roman and Arabic numerals, working with manipulatives and regrouping, drawing, and a beautiful introduction to geometry. It’s all planned out for you and it's a lot of fun! Click here to learn more and purchase.