What Maths can teach us about learning to pray the Rosary

My favourite subject to teach at school is Religion, followed very closely by maths so it works out well that one of my favourite ways of explaining how to learn the beautiful prayer of the Rosary incorporates maths.

Praying the Rosary can be seen analogous to teaching number work in primary school.

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1. Maths: Make sure you know how to work out single digit multiplication facts e.g. 3 x 7. Eventually, you need to make sure you know your times tables fluently. It’s not essential to know them for grade five maths but it’s a lot more difficult if you don’t have instant recall. It’s important to also know what 3 x 7 actually means as opposed to just being able to figure out what the answer is.

1. Rosary: Have access to the actual words of the main prayers (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be) and learn them by heart as quickly as you can.  You’re going to be frustrated very quickly if you don’t know the words. Of course if you begin praying the Rosary, even a decade a day, you’ll learn the words very quickly! Make time to learn what the words to the prayers actually mean as opposed to just knowing what they are.

2. Maths: Learn how to carry out two by one digit multiplication. It’s laborious to begin with if using a written algorithm but you’ll increase in speed and eventually be able to carry this out with a mental method.

2. Rosary: This is knowing the order of the Rosary, being able to identify which prayers are said when. It won’t take long until it’s automatic and you can stop looking at that “How to pray the Rosary” card.

3. Maths: Transfer your understanding of two by one digit multiplication to three or four by one digit multiplication. Repetition, repetition, repetition.

3. Rosary: Knowing the names of the mysteries off by heart. Repetition, repetition, repetition.

4. Maths: Making the leap to two by two digit multiplication is necessary but so difficult for some kids. They really struggle with it. A lot of work is needed in building conceptual understanding of what is happening. Teach two by two digit multiplication using a variety of methods and by continually reinforcing said methods and concepts.

4. Rosary: Up until now, the Rosary has been words but it’s time to make the leap to the meditations. The first step in this is knowing, truly knowing, the Scripture that goes with each mystery. Read them, know them, love them. Read them even if you aren’t praying the Rosary daily. Read them before praying the decade. Try finding a Scriptural rosary guide to use for awhile. Find beautiful artwork of the mystery to look at while you pray.

5. Maths: Be able to apply your knowledge of multiplication to various word problems. Sometimes you need to do some trial and error. Sometimes you can correctly determine the solution but need to find a faster, easier and simpler method.

5. Rosary: Meditate on the Rosary as you pray. There are lots of ways to do this and you might need to do some trial and error to find what works for you. This is both in terms of bodily posture whilst praying – I always find it easiest to meditate on the mysteries when walking – and in terms of how your heart and mind engage with the mysteries.

Of course we would never leave word problems until the end when teaching maths but introduce them from the very beginning. In the same way try to have little moments along the way of thinking about these mysteries. It could be spending 10 seconds meditating after announcing the mystery or, if you’re right in the first steps, thinking about the words to the Hail Mary as you say them.

The month of the Rosary starts tomorrow on 1st October. If you haven’t started praying the Rosary yet, why not give it a go with a decade a day?

2 thoughts on “What Maths can teach us about learning to pray the Rosary

    • Most subjects, us primary school teachers being generalists! Religion, Maths, English, Science, History, Geography, Health, various Arts subjects. At my school our students have specialist teachers for PE, Music and a language.

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