Monday, February 25, 2008

Unschooling Math

There seems to be much controversy over whether one can or should unschool math. I have no problem with it so far, as Aleks has already proven that he knows how to add and subtract small numbers with no teaching and no prompting. I asked him some simple math problems in the form of "if you have two apples and I give you three..." one day a few weeks ago after he'd said something about giving and taking away. To my amazement, he knew the answers to almost all of the word problems without hesitation. I continued making lunch and he went on to do something else. Clearly, he's getting familiar with numbers from doing other things and asking questions about specific problems he encounters.

At any rate, today I walked around the house to find some math. I found plenty. First, Aleks was playing Star Wars Lego I, which involves collecting studs (like coins), which he has been trying to do a lot of lately after his dad got him enough to buy the really expensive Ewok Catapult. Yesterday, he bought the Ghost Anakin, his first ghost. He constantly asks us to tell him what the numbers are. Since they are tens of thousands, he has a hard time and can only read one at a time or else says things like "seventeen four hundred." Today I managed to get him to say the thousands and hundreds separately and seem to understand. But he's always seeing the first number, adding more to it, watching it change...
He also writes down the amounts when we're in another room so we can tell him how much more he needs to purchase something.

He also has his money jar. He had all his money laid out today, seeing how many of each coin he has. He owes me $6.99 for a Star Wars action figure too, but is really reluctant to pay it. I'm not pushing it, despite the agreement we made before I bought Anakin.Aleks also crosses off the days on the calendar, sometimes adding events of his own, like here, "Lego," which means that he wants to buy Lego on the 28th. Bastian added the scribbles. I made this calendar from scratch rather than buy a new desk calendar this year.

We also play with Lego a lot, which requires an understanding of spacial awareness I can't even qualify. It's all geometry.
Then I found Bastian pew-pewing with the bath ducks.


Anna said...

This is a really important issue, and I'm glad you posted it. This is the kind of thing I'm always hoping to find on unschooling blogs but am generally disappointed.
I see this kind of example of math going on here all the time. Now granted, my kid is particularly interested in math right now. I can see that until a child shows that interest it can be nerve racking, but I don't understand the flat out disbelief that some people have that math comes naturally and occurs spontaneously as necessary. And, if one believes that it doesn't come up in simply living one's life, than why believe that we need it at all?

anna kiss said...

You know, I have a hard time with it too, because I like math a lot and use algebra and complex math in my life quite a bit. So I have this sense that it's really necessary and I've never been sure how we'll approach it in the future. But now that I've seen Aleks actually using math and learning counting and addition and in some ways multiplication, I'm starting to appreciate how different it is to learn math because you need it. His entire understanding is different than mine. He gets the use of math. He understands numbers in a - I wanna say holistic way, like he gets the whole concept because it's a real thing to him and not simply data.

Somebody invented Algebra, after all.

De said...

Hmmm... did someone invent Algebra or discover it? :~D Personally, I'd be leaning toward the "discover".