Norse Myths and the Realm of Maths
By Johanna Hampson, Class 4 Teacher, Noosa Pengari Steiner School
We entered the new year with the fire and ice of the Norse Myths. This main lesson is an enriching encounter with the marvelous characters of Asgard, realm of the Aesir, and the other 8 realms. We meet quick-tempered but powerful Thor and his mighty giant crushing hammer, the wise knowing Father of All, Odin, and of course the half god who never ceases to intrigue the children with his mischief, Loki. We have stamped staves rhythmically on the earth, raised our voices to a war cry, and sang solemnly of the dead who may reach Odin’s Halls. There is rarely a child who has entered this educational setting who will forget the Nordic Main Lesson. Ask the high school students! This is possibly because all of these Gods and beings, giants, dwarfs and monsters are really a picture of aspects of the human being, and the struggles we encounter to master ourselves as heroic individuals. Solid, indisputable and entertaining; Norse myth is the perfect medicine for the Class 4 child who is asking the adults around them “Do you really have what it takes to raise me?”
On the topic of mastery, the mathematics of Class 4 also enters new realms. For years we have clapped, stamped and chanted numerical fact. Class 4 is a year that really utilises what the child has practised in morning circle as we encounter fractions for the first time. Sound knowledge of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts makes this lesson easier. Maths is known as a ‘core’ subject. Interestingly it can be the area that most reflects our ‘core’ nature…are we able to divide and share,? Are we happier to accumulate? Do we have the patience to try and try again? Often the child who has a positive attitude to failing or making mistakes, and can get on and have another go will enjoy mathematics.
At our recent Primary Teachers’ Professional Development, Greg Noakes spoke of maths ‘trauma’ and its long term effects, which unfortunately many adults today suffered from in school. Jamie Yorke, in his Making Maths Meaningful series, speaks of four possible stages of maths learning. He characterises them as follows
1) Confusion, a relatively normal step in processing new information.
2) A period of struggle, which if persisted with usually arrives at understanding.
3) Some will go on to a period of frustration. He says this stage is likely to develop soon if the child is self conscious or competitive. Being comfortable with ‘failure’ (this language would never be used in the classroom) and having the resolve to go back a step or two can be helpful here.
4) Finally he speaks of a stage that we hope never to develop in a classroom, which Jamie York calls ‘Shut Down’. This can arise in the child who fears failure – ‘not doing is better than failing’. Perfectionism can get in the way. Unfortunately that is the stage where many parents left their maths career behind. If that is you as a parent, the best thing is to hold that quietly within rather than projecting fears and anxiety into the child’s relationship with maths. Saying things such as “Oh our family was never any good at maths” may just be enough to push a child into shut down when new and challenging concepts are being introduced at school. You can help to support your child by showing interest and enthusiasm for math, softening the language of ‘mistakes’ and praising them having another go. As in all things, having repeated attempts is what leads us to mastery.
“It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well have not lived at all.”
Johanna Hampson Class 4 TeacherFeb 2020