Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Waldorf Techniques for Mastering Math Facts with Body Movements that Anyone Can Use

by Kathy Stemke

Waldorf education’s interdisciplinary learning is based upon the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. Since the first school opened its doors in 1919, this style of learning has concentrated on the role of imagination to integrate practical, creative and conceptual elements. In addition to the 994 independent Waldorf schools, there are many Waldorf-based public schools and homeschooling situations. In fact, most schools use some of the innovative Waldorf activities in their curriculum.

Because math concepts tend to be abstract in nature and the traditional methods of teaching math facts are boring and ineffective, introducing Waldorf interactive math activities into the classroom will increase the learning and retention of math facts. Students will be eager to participate in these fun-filled games and projects.


A counting lesson might begin with a circle game similar to Duck-Duck-Goose. The students sit in a circle on the floor then one students stands behind a sitting classmate and begins counting each of their classmates in turn until they reach ten. All the students can assist in the counting. When the standing student reaches their tenth classmate the tenth classmates stands and chases the counting student around the circle attempting to tag them before they return to the place of the chasing student.


Students learn through exciting fairy tales and stories. Fun characters come to life for the students, bringing the numbers and math facts to the real world. The following tale is an example of the kind of story that can be used.

“It’s my job, said the jellybean queen, to divide the jellybeans equally among the subjects of Numeria. This bag of jellybeans is for you two girls. Be sure to share them equally.”

“But how can we be sure to share them equally between us?” Chali asked.

“Oh,” the kindly queen said, “That is easily accomplished. Watch. . . . There are six jellybeans in the sack . . . .here is one for you, Chali, and one for you Stephanie, another one for you Chali, and another one for you Stephanie, one more for you Chali, and one more for you Stephanie . . . as you see we now have two piles of jellybeans with 3 in each. It’s as simple as that!” The girls smiled at each other.

The queen was so busy she asked the girls to help her. For the rest of the day, Chali and Stephanie busily counted and divided jellybeans."

This story could easily be modified to teach subtraction. The students could take turns eating one or two jellybeans.

After illustrating this story on the chalkboard I went outside and hid several piles of "jellybeans" around the room. Whenever a pile is found, the student must divide them equally.


You can follow up this activity with a 100 board. Look for number patterns of odd and even. The students will discover that evens end with 2,4,6,8,0 and odds end with 1,3,5,7,9. Call out random numbers and the students can jump up and down for even numbers and hop on one foot for odd numbers.


Using a number line system of number place-mats across the floor, the team may deduct the answer by acting out the problem.

For example. 2 + 3 = 5

Team A organize themselves by standing on number mats on the floor. One stands on zero (0), while the rest stand in order from 1, 2, 3 4 and so on. For the problem 2+3, the person standing at zero may first take two steps on the first two mats and then jump another 3 mats indicating an increase of 3 in the problem to land at mat 5.

Waldorf-inspired teaching is designed to meet the needs of all learning styles, and is based on the best practices in education. It features an integration of storytelling, music, movement, art, drama, and poetry into the teaching of academic subjects.

Kathy Stemke's websites: Helium Education Articles: http://www.helium.com/users/406242.html Education Articles: http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/237923/Kathy_stemke_dancekam.html Follow me on twitter: http://twitter.com/kathystemke Follow me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=6147172660&topic=4910#!/kathymarescomatthews.stemke?ref=profile Follow me on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/kathy-stemke/13/269/285


  1. A wonderful philosophy and concept here; the waldorf innovations are sure to become a pinnacle of educational techniques.