One of the top three questions I get when talking to people about unschooling is "How will he learn math?" I love this question. Being a number enthusiast myself, I get excited whenever I have an opportunity to point out how math is all around us. That's the pseudo answer. Math is all around us. But learning is a process. Realizing that our surroundings provide excellent opportunities to learn math is just the first step. Here's my three step learning process:
- Notice the math in your environment
- Get excited
- Talk about it
That's it! Once you get through with step 3, it could lead you to further research. A trip to the library or a google search for more examples and information could be the next steps. Or not. Maybe the 3 steps was enough to satisfy the math curiosity for this moment. Regardless, some learning happens.
But where is the math?
Chase loves to count things. He made me realize we could talk about numbers anywhere. The only thing holding back the math is our imagination. We count nuts and bolts, birds, parallel lines, marks on walls, shoes, vertical blinds, beans, people, cars, busses, you get the idea :) What fascinated me is how the simple concept of counting has lead to other math concepts. We now count sides on objects. That thing has 4 sides, its a square. Or a rectangle. This thing has 8 sides and he looks to me like, what is that?!? Octagon, I say. We went from basic counting to geometry. But it doesn't stop there.
We have 3 different sets of dominos floating around the toy bin. We've tried to teach Chase how to play dominos by matching the dots but it never caught on. One night, Daddy was drawing things and Chase pulled out a domino. Draw this, he said. Then he said there's 3 dots and 2 dots. And Daddy writes next to the picture of the domino, "3 + 2 = ". Chase says "Three plus two is what number?" Let's count the dots! Now Chase asks to "match the dots" he runs to pull out a domino to count up the dots. More math! Now we count things and add them too (inspired largely by Umizoomi and Leap Frog).
What about Algebra? Calculus?
I don't have any anecdotes for these higher level math concepts. Chase is not there yet. And honestly, he might not get there. Maybe he will never need to know the area under the curve or the value of Pi. I can see that he is learning some applied math like measuring and fractions through cooking. He's learning the concept of time; seconds, minutes, hours, days, etc. We are carless so we walk and use public transportation. He will eventually know the difference between 1 block and 10 miles. Does it matter that he won't learn higher level math if he is not forced? I don't think so. There's a ton of math that I know that my Mom has long forgotten. Both of us are fully functioning, happy, successful adults.
I'm not sure where our math learning will be in five years. I don't know how we will learn about angles or balancing equations or more complex concepts; matrices maybe? And that's ok. We may or may not need to learn those concepts. However, I'm positive that if Chase wants to further his math mastery, no matter what we do, that learning will find us!