Math is the one area that was the hardest for me to transition into a more Charlotte Mason (CM) style. I am also least confident in my math teaching ability compared to all other academic areas. Trusting the CM approach to work was a difficult step of faith.
Although CM never use the term “living math,” many modern CM practitioners do. CM did speak of living books and living learning, so to use the term living math is certainly in the spirit of CM. I always recommend that people interested in CM methods go directly to the source and read what she, herself, said instead of reading what others say about her thoughts.
Charlotte Mason warned educators against moving too quickly from the concrete to the abstract with teaching math. Letting children use counters and physical objects to visualize and understand math concepts is critical. Their need for this concrete approach does not abruptly end in second grade but continues any time a new concept is studied. Even algebra can be taught with physical objects to make the rules comprehensible. Living math it about making math real and understandable, not merely following rules without any understanding of why they work (which is exactly how I learned and made good grades in math).
I made a slow shift from textbook and workbook into a living math approach when my daughter was in fourth grade. I have chronicled that entire process in detail at My Transition to Living Math. In short, I first adding one day a week of hands-on activities and games with our textbook lessons for the rest of the week. Then I added more days of hands-on, using the textbook more as a reference than my foundation for the day’s lessons. I also added in math history lessons. Eventually our math curriculum was a healthy balance of concrete math experiences and abstract math reasoning.
When we shifted to a living approach, I found that I needed a lot more math resources on the shelves. I invested in purchasing many living math and math history books.
For an in-depth view of four different math areas undertaken in this new living math approach, visit these links: