Unschooling math

The other day I came across this app – DragonBox – it is a really cool little game that teaches primary school algebra all the way up to 9th grade (at least that’s the level we had when I went to school in Denmark). I wasn’t very expensive and Lucas liked it. He played for 2-3 hours and he was done! Now – the last couple of chapters were a bit hard for him and he couldn’t play them without me or his dad by his side. But that goes for some levels in Plants vs. Zombies too, or Lego games for that matter. I thought well maybe €4,5 is a bit much for a game that lasts 2-3 hours, but what would a math tutor cost? Not that he’d need one like ever – what with his mom having a M.Sc. in Applied Math an’all 🙂

But then I discovered something interesting. Some one on an unschooling group I follow said that unschooled kids don’t need to to algebra at all – they already think algebra – and that when they start college, they don’t understand why the other kids are struggeling so much. Hmmm… I thought – what’s that about? And then I remembered a scenario from two days before I bought the DragonBox game.

Lucas’ favorite game these days is Plants vs. Zombies. He likes it so much that after he finished it he created a new profile and started over. Marcus and I like it too – and play with him as often as we can. So the other day he sits there while I play – and I’m planting double sunflowers (one of the plant in the game) and he counts 2-4-6-8 – “Four double sunflowers is the same as 8 normal sun flowers” – I look at him and smile “yes it is honey”. Then he goes on “you need four big suns to buy a pea-shooter, and a three-peter costs the same as 3 peashooters”. He does these calculations in his head all the time. Like – a cob cannon is 500 sun, and you need two kernel-pults at 100 sun each before you can plant a cob-cannon, so a cob cannon is 700 total. He does it in his head – no pen an paper needed. To him it is just as natural as counting, it is just something he does.

I have friends who says stuff like “I could never teach my kids how to read” or “I’m soo bad at math I could never home school” – but mind you, if I should sit down and teach Lucas these things, I’d be horrible at it too. I tried with reading, and it totally backfired. What unschooling does it not setting the parent up as the teacher, but giving the child the space to learn what they need to learn.

A loveley lady recently told me that a 3 year old aborigine child should know how to read the gras and the dust to find animals to hunt. And they learn through play. In our culture we need to learn how to read and do math and if we let our children learn through play, they will never discover that it is hard, they will just play. And I am not talking about “learning through play” games that the adults set up like DragonBox – though they can be fun and entertaining if the kids like them – I’m talking about free play, including computers and TV.