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Several times a week Charlotte scheduled some type of handicraft for students in the elementary years. While all of her selected handicrafts gave those young students multiple benefits, one craft in particular was designed to give them confidence in mathematics: paper sloyd.
Sloyd is not a word we hear very often. It comes from Sweden and means “handicraft” or “handiwork.” (In fact, it is still a compulsory subject in Swedish schools.) It can be applied to any number of media: wood, iron, cardboard, fabric. Charlotte’s young students worked with sturdy paper.
We think of sloyd in relation to mathematics because it incorporated many geometric concepts—measuring, bisecting, and angles, to name a few. Through these hands-on projects Charlotte’s students were gently guided to see the relation between a three-dimensional object and its corresponding flat pattern.
For example, the first lesson might be to measure and cut out a paper square that is exactly six inches in dimension. Following Charlotte’s general principles for all handicrafts, the students would be taught slowly and carefully what they must do to make accurate measurements and end up with a true square. Slipshod work would not be allowed; perfect execution was the goal.
And also following her principles for handicrafts, the students would be making something useful. Once they knew how to measure and cut a precise six-inch square, they could use their rulers to bisect that square twice from the corners in order to find the middle point; then carefully fold up each corner so its tip touched that middle point; and create an envelope, using a sticker to hold the four points together once their little note was tucked inside.
From a simple six-inch square they could also make picture frames, pinwheels, scissor cases, and baskets—each project growing a bit more difficult as they progressed, and each project granting a bit more understanding and experience with mathematical concepts. Soon they would think it nothing unusual to be working with hexagons and multi-shaped boxes.
Their paper sloyd lessons gave Charlotte’s students a positive introduction to and practical experience with geometry. You may want to incorporate sloyd in your own home school to give your students those benefits and add variety to your week.
You can find a step-by-step guide to handicrafts like the ones described here in the book, Paper Sloyd: A Handbook for Primary Grades by Ednah Anne Rich. (It was published in 1905 and should be available as a free download online.)
Paper Sloyd. Yet another way that Charlotte made math a living subject!
Note: Stay tuned for an exciting new mathematics resource to be announced next week. You won’t want to miss this one!
SCM on the Road
It has been great to see many of you at the events that we have attended so far this year. We still have many miles to travel and lots of opportunities to see more of you in the months ahead! Here is where we are scheduled to be.