Thursday, December 31, 2020

Mortensen Math Materials & The Deep Well of Time

One last post and then I'm done blogging for the year! Whew! These last few days have been a marathon.

To be honest, though, this post is a bit of a placeholder because I know I won't be able to resist coming back to it later and expanding on it.

One of my goals for professional development in January is to learn more about the Mortensen math materials, since they are the newest math material I own. I keep finding articles and videos that I want to take the time to absorb. These are all FREE resources. I hope you find them interesting... and if you find more links that should be included on this list, please share!

I know it's a plastic material (although that's a blessing in the disinfect-me time of COVID) and Waldorf uses lovely glass gems and Montessori uses lovely wood materials, but there are some real advantages to Mortensen, especially when it comes to algebra. The basic idea is that there is no must-do order of concepts... as long as the presentation is consistent among them (which it is), you can follow the children's lead and do whatever is interesting for them. A child simply needs to be able to count to 9, tell if two things are different, and identify a square and a rectangle. It's pretty fascinating stuff!

So I hope you enjoy these. Here's Geoff White's website and the site for Crewton Ramone's House of Math if you're curious to learn even more!

Reconceptualizing Fraction Multiplication and Division

Algebra Visualization Book 5
Okay, so that's the mind-bending "wait a minute, I never learned it this way" stuff!! How do you get kids there?

an awesome overview in 57 minutes and 4 seconds
my colleague, Ms. Denise, traveled all the way to Hawai'i to learn from him!

Introducing the blocks and the operations

Super Simple Subtraction
immediately introducing subtraction as adding a negative number! and easily showing how subtraction is finding the "difference" between two numbers

basic operations with bigger numbers

Simple algebra

Fraction Lessons

Moving easily from percentages to fractions to algebra... and beyond!

Of course, I will continue to add links to articles & videos as I find them. And, here are all of the videos on Crewton Ramone's Youtube channel.

The other new resource which I just purchased, and which won't arrive on my doorstep until Sunday so I'll update this then, is The Deep Well of Time: The Transformative Power of Storytelling in the Classroom by Michael Dorer.

In Montessori, just like in Waldorf, teachers are supposed to teach through stories which they learn by heart and tell to their class. This not only makes the content enlivened, because storytelling is such a personal experience, it makes it more memorable! I just had a wonderful Zoom meeting with another former Montessori teacher who has become a Waldorf teacher, and is looking for places of overlap and connection, and she shared the title of this book with me. She said it was particularly wonderful for Geometry.

Even if you're not a fan of Amazon, I suggest clicking on the link I've given below and then clicking on "Look Inside" to see the table of contents and the full list of stories included.

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!


Wendy said...

I’m curious to know if you will begin using these manipulative materials with Zach. I watched the video and was very impressed, but I found all the information about purchasing somewhat confusing. You said you have some - where did you start? Which have you found most useful? I will be homeschooling a first grader next school year and have begun doing my research. Thanks so much! Wendy (from Suzanne’s puppet class we just took!)

Renee said...

Hi Wendy!

I'm a Montessori person and also a Waldorf person, and in first grade I actually use the Waldorf Quality of Numbers block and the Math Gnomes block.

In second grade then I introduce the Montessori materials like the Golden Beads, Colored Bead Bars, and so on because I think they go well as the next step after the glass gems used in Waldorf first grade.

Overall, philosophy-wise, I tend to use the Montessori materials -- if there is something really good, which a lot of it is -- but within the Waldorf timeframe.

So Mortensen is interesting for me! My dear friend and colleague, Ms. Denise -- who was trained in Montessori Lower Elementary AND Upper Elementary and also worked as a Museum Exhibit Designer and an Art Therapist -- got Mortensen materials for her classroom for Algebra, but discovered during her training that they can be used for everything else too (including Calculus). She became fascinated by them and ended up using them for all operations and for introducing number concepts, starting at age 6. She completely switched over to them and, since they were inspired by Montessori, felt totally comfortable doing so in her Montessori classroom.

I adore Denise as a teacher and as a person and since she has such a strong Art & Design background, I trust her judgment as to whether something helps children visualize concepts. She also gave me her Birth and Death of a Star material which I wrote about in the previous post... brilliant!

So I am taking the time to learn more about Mortensen because she spoke so highly about it. She passed along to me a lot of the workbooks but only a few trays of the material. That's because you actually don't need much. For first grade you wouldn't even need the Fraction material. You would just get the Combo Kit and the Multiple Tens Kit. I agree that ordering seems unnecessarily hard but I think it's because all of the resellers of Jerry's materials fill their websites with how-to videos so people can see what they would actually do with the pieces. I would suggest Anna's Math Page. She seems to have the most straight forward website.

This is my inventory of Montessori classroom materials, including the Mortensen things Denise gave me:

All of which to say that I, too, am curious about the First Grade question. Particularly this year, because it is plastic and can be wiped down, I may start using Mortensen with our homechool co-op kids more than I would have ordinarily. I think it'll work well in the Outdoor Classroom setting. But as of right now -- until I watch more of these videos and try the exercises out myself -- I am still planning on the Waldorf blocks for my son who is 5 1/2 and will be 6 in September. I would be surprised if it is better than Waldorf for that very first initial introduction!

Wendy said...

Renee, Thank you so much for your very detailed answer. I think I'll stick with Waldorf for this first grade year for Michael - he'll be 6 in 2 weeks and is the only child I homeschool - he's actually my next door neighbor! I appreciate all the information you share and hope someday to meet you in person. Happy New Year,