Active Arithmetic: Movement and Mathematics Teaching in the Lower Grades of a Waldorf School by Henning Andersen


Published by AWSNA

Review by Nancy Parsons, co-owner of Bob & Nancy’s Bookshop

Is it possible to teach arithmetic in the first years of school in such a way that the majority of pupils do not experience the lesson as a strain? Are there ways of practicing arithmetic that do not adversely affect a child’s zest for life . . . and still teach the subject well?

In many ways it was the answers to these questions that first engaged what became my passionate commitment to Waldorf education. My own grade school struggles with arithmetic laid the foundation for a lifelong quest to find “a better way.” When Idiscovered Rudolf Steiner’s lively approach to teaching mathematics with rhythm, art, even stories and song, it resonated so deeply in my heart that helping this approach to education move forward became my life’s work.

In my time, arithmetic was taught pretty much solely with pencil and paper along with some verbal and written examples from the teacher and textbooks. I was not a child who found much joy in that, nor was I terribly interested in remembering abstract details for which I could find no connection in daily life. I know that had I been taught using Waldorf methods, I would have come to love mathematics much earlier in life, and would have dreaded math class much less.

Active Arithmetic describes the use of lively, rhythmic movement as part of the mathematics education in the early grades (grades 1-3, approximately). Anyone who has seen these or similar exercises carried out in a classroom or homeschool knows the happiness they bring and can testify to the lifelong learning they foster. My own children, now adults, all still remember what I call the “body mnemonics” of the clapping, singing, dancing, and even game playing through which they were taught the basics of arithmetic.

Comparing their experiences to my own is like comparing a gray, chilly day to a garden bathed in summer sunlight. It’s small wonder that they understand arithmetic so very well, and remember it so accurately.

Active Arithmetic is an exciting resource that clearly describes much of what Waldorf education offers children in Grades 1-3. I can’t recommend it highly enough for teachers and homeschoolers; I also recommend it for parents wishing to supplement theirchildren’s more traditional math education. Making learning fun is always a gain for all.

Find this book here, at Waldorf Books. Some books for the early grades that I find to be synergistic when used alongside Active


· Making Math Meaningful: A Sourcebook for Grades 1-5 by Jamie York.

· Math Lessons in the Elementary Grades by Dorothy Harrer.

· Teaching Mathematics in Grades 1-2 by Ernst Schubreth

· Teaching Mathematics by Roy Wilkenson

These books and more can be found in our Mathematics Curriculum section of our bookshop.



Bob Lathe and Nancy Parsons

Nancy Parsons and her husband Bob Lathe have been involved with Waldorf education for over 30 years. Together they own Waldorf Books where they have an online section devoted to Waldorf Curriculum materials, with descriptions and reviews of the broadest offering of Waldorf curriculum material available anywhere. Nancy and Bob offer a treasure trove of information on Waldorf education and love to answer questions. Bob and Nancy provide resources, articles and information for parents and teachers on Waldorf education, Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner’s lectures and more at Bob and Nancy’s website, provide Waldorf employment listings at Waldorf World and have translated about half of Rudolf Steiner’s pedagogical work currently in print in English. Nancy co-manages the oldest active e list on Waldorf education.



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