Many schools across the world veto finger counting. You may wonder why Roseway Waldorf school would find it important to encourage it.
The short version is that finger counting has been found to be vital in mathematical achievements, and should not necessarily be associated with being mentally childlike, and not progressing to bigger and better ways of study.
Within our brains is a somatosensory area, which is a representation and stimulator of finger counting – even if the actual fingers are not being used for counting. This portion of a child’s brain lights up when counting starts, and when more complex sums are attempted this area comes into play to assist with the output.
Our amazing brain is made up of various networks that distribute the inputs to the needed areas, and when a child is involved with counting and math, the visual portions of our brains are activated.
In fact, when a Grade 1 child is encouraged to count on their fingers their understanding of Grade 2 math is increased.
How children might find it easier to study
Looking at an average classroom, it’s not always easy to say which children will love maths and which won’t.
Schools have goals to meet and policies to adhere to. Sadly you might find that it seems that they are rushing through worksheets and maths problems in the hopes of giving a child the needed understanding. No teacher is able to understand straight away which children will flourish at maths.
It’s unfortunate that if a child does not “get it” straight away, there is a real danger that they will actually lose out on something that they could possibly be very good at. At the primary school level, visual aids are used quite a lot to help with understanding in most subjects.
When it comes to the higher grades, there are often just too many children and a whole lot of work to get through. Visual teaching, (finger counting, etc.) just does not have the time to present itself, yet this is where visual teaching would assist with maths concepts and help the brain to work as well as it can.
Visual maths could be the answer to most problems.
Different individuals will always have different ways to approach the study of maths.
Kinesthetic awareness is a movement sense; it is your nerve receptors tell the brain what’s happening in your surroundings.
While different methods work for different children, there is a logical and visual awareness that helps a child to understand now, and assists with study later. Visual awareness is very important when it comes to understanding maths, and finger counting is the visual awareness that helps a child to understand and develop different areas of their brain.
Finger counting discouraged at an early age.
Sadly not all educational institutes believe in the benefit of finger counting. In fact, there is one, in particular, that encourages other classmates to report to a teacher if they see anyone counting on their fingers. Many schools would rather not teach finger counting to children, or make sure that children don’t use it in their mathematics journey.
Research has proven that when finger counting is discouraged, math development can slow down and even come to a complete stop. Think about a concert pianist; the brain-finger coordination is wonderful to watch, with amazing results. The same can be said for mathematicians. Our fingers can provide additional motivation that helps our children to learn and develop in a wonderful way.
Our approach to maths is different to that of more traditional schools. If you have any questions or would like more information, please get in touch. We’d love to chat to you.
“More is going on in handwriting than meets the eye” says Heather Church, Pedagogical Chair, Faculty, Parents & Community Life.
In a society that values typing speed over handwriting, many young children are bypassing an important skill set in their school years.
Why is handwriting such an important part of the Waldorf curriculum?
In her article The Importance of Learning Cursive Writing, Heather Church shows how a child’s pencil grip changes as they develop; from a little fist holding a crayon and using their shoulder and trunk to move it, to the mature grip which utilizes the fingers and wrist, using the shoulder and elbow as support.
While this process may seem to be a natural as learning to walk and run, learning to write cursive goes far deeper. It can almost be compared to a child that can walk, and a child that can dance.
Our fingertips are incredibly sensitive and feed a vast amount of information into our brains. Allowing our children to master only the most rudimentary handwriting skills before whisking them off to keyboards leaves a hole in their mental and physical development.
We have seen how handwriting goes hand in hand with language learning, reading and working memory. In fact, MRI scans on children’s brains who practice writing more, show enhanced neural activity than those who only looked at letters, as you would on a screen.
A child who can write well will enjoy additional benefits. Consider what Perry Klein, professor of literacy at the University of Ontario reported. “If students can form letters fluently, then that frees up their attention to focus on the content and language of what they’re writing.”
When writing essays, children wrote faster and expressed more ideas than they would have on a keyboard.
“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,” said Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris. “There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain.” And it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn’t realize,” he continued. “Learning is made easier.””
Waldorf teachers have made the choice to teach the right thing at the right time; when it is developmentally practical to do so. And what better time to teach children the art, beauty, and practical use of superior script?
We feel that the need for keyboards is not an essential developmental milestone and that they have plenty of time to master this skill as they grow older.
However, considering the above facts, we will continue encouraging our children to let their fingers dance over their pages and create their magical stories in increasingly rare and beautiful cursive.
Further information on this subject:
Cursive or Cursor
Ian Leslie wrote an article for The Guardian in which he said, “Curious people are more alive, somehow; their eyes are lit from behind. They know more about more, which makes them more interesting.”
Do you agree with that?
Curiosity is inbuilt in children, as much as eating and sleeping.
From as young as two months old, a child will show a preference for an unfamiliar pattern, and as soon as a child can point, they are asking the silent question: What is it?
In his article, Ian Leslie points to a study which showed that a child will ask around 100 questions an hour. Parents – universally – have experienced this phenomenon.
This insatiable desire to know more is a fundamental key to a child’s mental development. The more they know, the more questions they have on what they know. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle where curious kids learn more, and learn faster, than children who have not been exposed to an environment which encourages their curiosity.
One psychological study entitled “The Wick in the Candle of Learning. Epistemic Curiosity Activates Reward Circuitry and Enhances Memory” made an interesting comment. They said, “In the information-gap theory, the object of curiosity is an unconditioned rewarding stimulus: unknown information that is anticipated to be rewarding. Humans (and other species, such as cats and monkeys) will expend resources to find out information they are curious about, much as rats will work for a food reward (Loewenstein, 1994).”
Not only is curiosity beneficial in young children, but it is also deeply rewarding.
They find knowledge – and the quest for knowledge – fulfilling.
Curiosity leads to discovery, stimulating the reward centre of the brain, creating new neural pathways with exciting new information, and then providing more questions to the thirsty mind.
Encouraging curiosity in young children is a wonderfully fulfilling job for parents and teachers alike. A curious mind is a joy to teach and promotes a highly efficient learning environment which actually works.
How will you encourage your curious child’s learning process?
As parents, we can do our share by spending quality time with our little ones, and being available to answer the inevitable onslaught of “Why?” Providing open-ended questions and encouraging our children to seek their own answers is a valuable tool to grow little minds.
Teachers at the Waldorf schools have been trained to actively encourage curiosity in their students. We welcome the “Why” and we teach children how to find answers.
Without exception, we all want the very best for our children.
As parents, we want to see them live a successful, happy, and fulfilled life. And it’s with this in mind that we see so many parents getting their children involved in a multitude of activities to give them the edge and make sure that they have all the skills they need to succeed in our frenzied world.
Have you considered how music can benefit your child?
The Roseway Waldorf curriculum introduces music at an early age – and for good reason. Besides the sheer joy and excitement that it brings to young children, there are a plethora of studies which point to early music learning as a serious brain boost.
Language skills, in particular, are positively impacted by early music experiences.
A fascinating study breaks down the science of this premise and notes, “…musicians learn and repeatedly practice the association of motor actions with specific sound and visual patterns (musical notation) while receiving continuous multisensory feedback. This association learning can strengthen connections between auditory and motor regions (e.g., arcuate fasciculus) while activating multimodal integration regions.”
The training of the brain in this way enhances other behavioural and cognitive functions outside of the musical abilities; developing a plasticity of the neural network.
Just an hour a week of music – especially for children under the age of seven – is enough to see significant benefits to the brain.
Liisa Henriksson-Macaulay, author of The Music Miracle: The Scientific Secret to Unlocking Your Child’s Full Potential, writes, “When children start studying music before the age of seven, they develop bigger vocabularies, a better sense of grammar and a higher verbal IQ.” This applies both to their own language, as well as their ability to learn foreign languages, and is a gift that lasts well past childhood into adulthood.
Liisa further goes on to point out that our children learn the most during free play and discovering the word around them for themselves. So a combination of gentle, enjoyable music lessons combined with a lot of unstructured play is a wonderful recipe for our children’s growing minds.
If you would like to know more about the Waldorf way, we would love to assist you. Please contact us with any questions.
Festivals are integral to the rhythm of life in a Waldorf school. In fact, this rhythm is precisely why these festivals are such a prominent part of Waldorf life. The goal is to develop in the child a sense of the rhythm of the seasons and the passage of time, and a sense that there is something bigger than himself.
“The original idea of any sacred festival is to make the human being look upward from his dependence on earthly things to those things that transcend the Earth.” – Rudolf Steiner
The Roseway Waldorf school calendar is punctuated by four key festivals, marking the seasons:
- Easter – marking the beginning of Spring in the northern hemisphere, Easter is a time for celebrating new life and rebirth. Associated with the Christian celebration to mark the work of Christ on the cross, this festival is dedicated to new life in all its forms – both physical and spiritual.
- St John’s Festival – Marking the high point of summer, St John’s festival held fundamental significance to our ancient ancestors. The passage of the sun brought with it life in the form of crop growth and warmth. As such, it is accorded a place in our calendar to honour the seasonal changes that make daily life possible.
- Michaelmas – St Michael is known as the conqueror of the dragon, the heavenly hero with his starry sword, who gives strength to people.
- Christmas – this ancient festival has an important role in marking the passing of time and reminding us that there is more to life than our daily toil. It is a time of reflection and deep inner spiritual awakening, as we acknowledge the global truths available to us all.
Even more than that, though, we take these moments as opportunities to show gratitude both for the time we’ve been granted together, and anticipation of the gifts of time that lies ahead.
Waldorf Answers explains our focus on festivals further:
Seasonal festivals serve to connect humanity with the rhythms of nature and of the cosmos. The festivals originated in ancient cultures, yet have been adapted over time. To join the seasonal moods of the year, in a festive way, benefits the inner life of the soul. Celebrating is an art. There is joy in the anticipation, the preparation, the celebration itself, and the memories.
At Roseway Waldorf, we enjoy and respect cultural diversity carried into our community by the many faiths and life expressions represented here. The festivals of other religious groups are positively acknowledged, and form the basis of lively discussions in the classrooms, contributing to our scholars’ experience of diversity within a multicultural classroom.
As we head into this time of peace and celebration, we wish our Waldorf families and friends peace, and we look forward to welcoming everyone back safely into the new year.