Is your child afraid of math? I know many who are. I also know that one of the most effective ways to help them overcome their fear of math is to give them an allowance. In addition to teaching your child patience, opportunity cost, and the value of things, money is a hands-on way to work through many math skills!
My son got hooked on math through his allowance. At the age of four, he wanted to save up for a LEGO kit. On a piece of graph paper, I marked one square for each dollar he would have to save. Whenever he got his allowance, he would color in the associated squares and we would count how many more squares – or dollars – he needed to reach his goal. By the age of five, he was using addition to calculate his goals, and by six he was multiplying. Now that he’s seven, he has a money journal, where he writes down his debits, credits, and current balance.
His interest in money, and his age, led to the question: “Why do we use paper money? Why don’t we use gold or computers?”
I’m glad we had The Story of Money in our home library! This lovely book, written by an elementary teacher, traces the fascinating history of world currencies from the time of the very earliest humans. The engaging illustrations and clear text will take you and your child on a journey through ancient civilizations like Sumer and China. You’ll then make your way to colonial America and discover how the dollar came to be.
The Story of Money is written in the style of Montessori’s Cosmic Stories, which helps children stay engaged from start to finish. My son loved looking at all the different ancient coins, all carefully illustrated to actual size. This book can inspire many avenues of research for elementary students, from timelines to coin collections.
So, the next time your child feels scared of math, connect math to money, and money to human history with The Story of Money, and watch their fear turn to enthusiasm!
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When Dr. Montessori spoke of “following the child”, I often wonder if she was talking about following their development or following their example…
In the elementary community of thirty 6-12 year-olds where I spend my days, four boys ages 9 to 11 decided to set a new world record for the longest crochet chain. They launched daily crocheting sessions while taking turns reading aloud from “The Odyssey”. After a week, they decided to measure their progress. The strategy they came up with was to measure the width of our soccer field, then lay out the chain back and forth across the field and multiply the width by the number of spans of crochet chain.
Inspired by this project, a group of boys ages 7 and 8 decided that they, too, wanted to crochet a massive chain. They set to work, and after three days they showed their progress to the older boys. James, the oldest of the bunch, nodded his approval and offered two words of encouragement: “Not bad”. The younger boys beamed.
The next day, two members of the younger group came to tell me they were ready to measure their chain. As I asked them to explain their measurement plan, another member of their team showed up with four yardsticks under one arm, a tape measure in one hand and a fistful of rulers in the other. They set off for the soccer field, giddy with excitement.
After a while, they came back looking bewildered. “That was a lot harder than we thought,” one of them confessed. An hour later, one of the 8-year-olds came to me and said, “We’ve thought about a different way of measuring our chain. We’re going to do it like James’s team.”
As they said this, 11-year-old James walked by and overheard him. He stopped and said, “The width of the field is 20 feet. Maybe that can help you. Good luck.” Then he walked away.
In our ruthlessly competitive American culture, one would expect the older boys to be resentful of the younger ones for copying their idea. They could’ve guarded their measurement strategy and data as proprietary information. After all, we’re talking about setting a world record! Yet the older boys not only offered words of encouragement, but also gave advice to ensure the younger boys’ success.
As Montessori adults, we’re called to model the collaborative behaviors we want future generations to embody. And yet, in the words of AMI-USA President Gretchen Hall, we often fall prey to the pettiness of “a culture of ‘them’ vs ‘us’, [where] we…measure others on how ‘Montessori’ they are and we [use] the term ‘Montesomething’ to discredit and devalue others… We boast that our pedagogy lays the foundation for social cohesion, yet we have failed to achieve cohesion in our own community.”
The children know that collaboration is the key to society’s survival, for when we share knowledge, we all win. My students remind me daily that they are our true guides, leading us back towards the essence and truth of human nature. We have only to follow.
“If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for children are the makers of men.” – Maria Montessori
Some of my 7- and 8-year old students recently received a lesson on the B.C./A.D. timeline. A couple of students decided they wanted to reproduce the timeline (a very long series of paper strips, divided into centuries) and illustrate important historical events on it.
One young 7-year old, a lover of history, was especially engaged with his project, pouring over books to hunt down dates for the sinking of the Titanic, the discovery of America, the building of the Great Pyramids, and the end of World War I.
At one point he approached me and said he wanted to know when the last Ice Age ended. I helped him find the information in a book, and we both learned that, according to that source, the last Ice Age ended about 35,000 years ago. He wanted to know how many centuries that was, so I took this opportunity to give an impromptu long division lesson. I gathered my older students, explained the boy’s conundrum, and asked them to take out the Racks & Tubes (a material for long division).
We set up the problem (35,000/100) and worked out the solution. The other children went back to their individual work and the boy and I returned to his timeline to ponder 350 centuries worth of history.
“The oldest century I have here is the 50th century B.C.,” he said, looking back over the 70 centuries he had marked off.
“Your timeline will need to be five times as long as it is now,” I pointed out, thinking he might not understand what he was getting himself into.
His eyes widened. “Cool!!! Where can I get more strips?”
I think we’re going to need a bigger classroom. 🙂