A three week math block for grade seven at East Bay Waldorf proved that math equals fun! Students often dread the idea of math, so I told the students at the beginning of our block that I would avoid using the word math, and yet introduce the basics of algebra and geometry.
I created a fictitious corporation that gave me a vehicle for creating interactive lesson plans. Through it, I organized the students into "departments" with department heads, allowing for group work, and building leadership skills and effective team dynamics. The topics in algebra covered were variables, expressions, equations, formulas, and signed numbers. The topics in geometry included Thales theorem, Pythagorean theorem, the Golden Ratio, the Golden Rectangle, Fibonacci numbers.
I explained signed numbers by illustrating the corporate ladder, using promotions and demotions to move up or down numbered levels in the company. For instance, if your office is on level 5, and you were given 4 promotions, your office is then moved to level 9 (5 + 4 = 9). Conversely, if your office was on level 9, and you were given 4 demotions, which are negative, your office is now on level 5 (9 + -4 = 5). What if you were on level 2 and 1 demotion was taken away? Then you would be on level 3, since having a negative number removed actually moves you up the ladder (2 - -1 = 3).
The products that our fictitious corporation sell included such items as Algebratwurst, or Algebran Cereal! We were able to create formulas, such as Total Sales = $6 x Algebratwurst sold + $5 x Algebran Cereal sold, or TS = 6B + 5C. Then, in groups, they designed new products and made commercials.
In geometry, the students continue to hone their use of a straight edge, right angle ruler, and compass by constructing the Thales triangle, the Pythagorean squares, and determining if their own hands fit the dimensions of the Golden Rectangle.
The last week of the block at the end of February, I will have the students prepare a song based on mathematicians Thales, Pythagoras, Archimedes, and Euclid. Thus far, I am pleased with how much the students are enjoying the block. I think they may have forgotten we're actually doing math!
I am also very pleased with how my homage to da Vinci turned out. Using chalk and some shadow techniques, it looks like an old parchment page from his journals! In the Waldorf classroom, it is traditional for the class teacher to create an artistic rendering that honors the current subject being taught.