Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Math Gnomes

This past week I introduced math gnomes to help Sunburst understand the four mathemtical processes. Math can be pretty abstract, and using characters and stories to teach it in the early grades is supposed to help kids build a heart relationship with the material or a deeper relationship, or something like that. Regardless of what it's supposed to do, it was a big hit.

I looked at Path of Discovery Gr 1, Christopherus First Grade Syllabus, Math for the Elementary Grades, Teaching Mathematics, and Journey to Numeria before presenting the material. Even with all those books in front of me, I still couldn't quite figure out the bigger picture and progression. Right or not, Sunburst is connecting with it, and that's the point.

Einstein named the gnomes for us:
  1. Divide = Aliquot
  2. Multiply = Myriad
  3. Addition = Tally
  4. Subraction = Minus
To introduce them, I brought back Clara, one of the characters we've been following throughout our other lessons (Intro to Letters and Quality of Numbers.) Clara was given a magical pear flute by the Sky Queen at the end of our Numbers lesson, so she brought that along with her into this lesson. Sunburst loves to hear that Clara is playing, and sometimes, struggling along with her.

My inspiration for this introduction was actually from that news article about the Fairy Rock in Scotland. Clara is the wiseman's daughter, and he sent her to work out a dispute over a new building site that would involve moving a "fairy rock." Only Clara finds out it's not a fairy rock, but the entrance to the gnomes underground cavern. Not only that, the gnomes have four magic trails that run through the area that cannot be built upon.

Clara's task was to work things out between the builders and the gnomes, and the gnomes give their input based on their specific personalities, ie. share the houses among the land; more trails/more houses; fewer trails/fewer houses; faster trails/faster houses. Sunburst thought they had interesting ideas, but that Aliquot's idea made more sense. So lesson 1 was to do just that: divide the houses up among the land.

Now the gnomes have decided to come up with welcome presents for their new neighbors, and Clara is helping them. Tally collected jewels (Sunburst's idea,) Minus will borrow and morph a wonderful story idea from Wonder Homeschool about a bucket with a hole in it, Myriad is going to collect tree saplings, and Aliquot will help him divide them among the 12 neighbors.

We're also playing some counting games, forwards and backwards, with and without beanbags. Sunburst particularly liked the simple one we came up with today to the tune of "Here we go round the mulberry bush." We tossed the bean bags from one hand to the other, singing:

This is the way that Tally counts,
Tally counts, Tally counts.

This is the way that Tally counts,

So early in the morning:

1, 2, 3 ... 12.

This is the way that Minus counts,
Minus counts, Minus counts.
This is the way that Minus counts,
So early in the morning:
12, 11, 10... 1, 0.
I'm learning to never underestimate the power of simplicity.


  1. Love those gnomes!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Anonymous11:51 PM

    I am starting to home school my daughter, and really appreciate your stories, and ideas. Thanks so much.

  3. Thanks so much!


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