Thursday, March 7, 2019

Teaching about Money

Money, like all the other forms of Measurement, isn't something you just teach about once. Here are a few places it shows up in the Waldorf method:

    Grade 3 - Trade Goods and the Development of Currency

    Grade 4 - Local History, Geography & Industry

    Grade 5 - Decimals

    Grade 6 - Business Math (Ratios, Percents, Formulas, Graphs)

    Grade 7 - The Stock Market Game

    Grade 8 - World Economics

As with everything in Waldorf, doing deep interdisciplinary topics of study allows for concepts to be revisted, reviewed and extended in new ways as they are interwoven with other content.

In the third grade Math theme "The Maths of Practical Life" (which accompanies topics such as "Fibers & Clothing" and "Housebuilding"), students learn about how money evolved from the barter system. They learn the value of our coins and bills and practice counting money.

In the fourth grade Local History & Geography theme of looking at the place where you live and what its history is, studying the industries is an important part. The sample 4th grade Live Education! lesson demonstrates this. Is your region famous for timber? Farming? Coal? Gold? I grew up along the Chesapeake Bay where the local industries came from the water (crabbing, oyster tonging) as well as tobacco farming. These are all studied at this time.

In my homeschool co-op, we are also doing the fourth grade Tall Tales block in Language Arts, where we look at local folklore from around the country. Figures like Captain Kidd, Pecos Bill, Mike Fink, Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan, John Henry and Finn MacCool are very much a part of their region, and help to bring to life what industries were important back then.

In fifth grade Decimals are brought in as a Math topic, building on the introduction of Fractions in fourth grade. In this block, which Torin Finser writes about in detail in School as a Journey: The Eight-Year Odyssey of a Waldorf Teacher and His Class, students learn about the decimal point and how to do addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division with decimals.

In sixth grade students practice writing Business Letters in Language Arts and do Business Math as their math subject, such as calculating percents when giving a tip or making a commission on a sale. This reviews the steps in operations with decimals but takes the ideas still further.

In seventh grade last year my students played The Stock Market Game as one of their math projects... and all of this is leading up to a deep study of World Geography & Economics in eighth grade.

So, if you have a multi-age homeschool co-op, you have some decisions to make about Money. Will you offer all of these concepts to the entire class and let people enter into it as they wish, or break apart the topic and give one kind of lesson to one set of children and another kind of lesson to another set of children? There are no easy answers to this. Here's my plan:

We will go from our Tall Tales block into Trade Goods and the Development of Currency, revisiting some of the commodities which were sought after in our stories such as coal and gold. We will likely begin with the Gold Rush as a transition. We will use Betsy Maestro's book The Story of Money to guide us.

We will look at the coins and bills of our country and practice counting them, as well as looking at money from foreign lands. John Edward Maher's vintage book Ideas about Choosing follows next, with a deeper discussion of goods and services and economic choices. My students who are interested in doing math problems with money will have the Montessori Decimal Stamp Game to aid them. This hands-on color-coded Math material is simply wonderful!

Lastly, some of my younger students observed the older children playing The Stock Market Game last year and are very interested in exploring it, so I will likely offer this as an option as well. We can continue to play it through the last day of school. The vintage card game Pit is a very fun entrance into this topic! Note: This game is best with a group of more than three people.

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