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  1. #1

    Default Ancient philosophy for 3rd grader

    Yeah, I know - sort of a deep topic for an 8 year old.

    But, we're going to be spending a brief period of time looking at the history of the ancient world and I've invested in some materials showcasing the art and would like to put together some simplified materials regarding what people believed. Things like Plato's forms and the allegory of the caves I can probably do a passable job explaining, but philosophy isn't my strongest suit.

    I want a basis to talk about the people who lived back then like they are real people - not just words on a page.
    Homeschooling my 8 year old son.

    Secular humanist.

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  3. #2


    Maybe, kinda, sorta related??? I was reading the history of the number zero, and the ancients really had no concept of it, or at least abhorred the concept of it. Here are some quotes I've found scouring the internet:

    There is no Roman numeral for zero as there was no need for a numeral to represent it. The system of Roman numerals was developed as a means of trading and bartering. Instead of a Roman numeral they used the Latin word 'nulla', which meant zero. The 'number' zero was invented in numerous cultures across the world at different times. However, it is generally accepted that the Indian astronomer Brahmagupta put forward the concept of zero for the first time, around 600AD.

    THE ancient Greeks were aware of the concept of zero (as in 'We have no marbles'), but didn't think of it as a number. Aristotle had dismissed it because you couldn't divide by zero and get a down-to-earth result. The Romans never used their numerals for arithmetic, thus avoiding the need to keep a column empty with a zero symbol. Addition and subtraction were done instead on an abacus or counting frame. About 1,500 years ago in India a symbol was used to represent an abacus column with nothing in it. At first this was just a dot; later it became the '0' we know today. In the 8th century the great Arab mathematician, al-Khwarizmi, took it up and the Arabs eventually brought the zero to Europe. It wasn't warmly received; the Italians in particular were very suspicious of any change to their ancestors' system of numerals. In 1259 a law was passed forbidding bankers from using zero or any of the new Arab numerals in their accounts.


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  4. #3


    That's pretty awesome stuff.

    I think they touched on a little of that in school when they looked at Roman numerals. I wish I still had an abacus though; I think the idea of doing arithmetic mechanically would surprise him.
    Homeschooling my 8 year old son.

    Secular humanist.

  5. #4
    Senior Member Arrived Elly's Avatar
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    Jul 2013


    On the topic of zero/counting: I bought a picture book recently on counting (when I looked it up I realised it's called 'The History of Counting'! The abacus thing is amazing. I was reading about it in a book called Alex's Adventures in Numberland (which I really must get around to finishing sometime!) which talks about mental arithmetic contests in Asia where the contestants are so fast at mental arithmetic due to their experience using abacuses (abaci?). We use one with RightStart math, so I told DS a few stories about people who can add more quickly than a calculator using their mental abacus. It's quite incredible. (I'm not sure whether that's really what you wanted to asked about, but I was excited about the whole counting/zero/abacus line of discussion!).

    Anyway: individual topics may be the way to go to find more age accessible resources for philosophy? There are many amazing picture books but I suspect the scope of any one is more limited than a book for adults might be.

    4th year of homeschooling DS, now 9!

  6. #5


    You got me thinking about the Pythagoreans, Carol. Super weird zippy hippie cult! not just numbers-based but phantasms and wearing white, being vegetarian, etc. Which led me to find a quickie guide:

    philosophy basics: ancient movements or schools

    It should get you started, OP. Also, we read some fun books like Archimedes and the Door of Science (or any of those Living History books, though some are kind of meh) and dabbled in Joy Hakim's The Story of Science Aristotle Leads the Way as a science/history/philosophy backup to our history studies.

    I agree you may not need to go deep at this age...but it's interesting for kids to consider that people have always studied thinking for a living.
    Eclectically homeschooling 8th grade dd, who likes science as much as art...

  7. #6


    I will second the book recommendations from fastweedpuller above
    Homeschooling two sons (14 and 16) from day one. Atheist.
    Eclectic, Slackschooler covering 8th and 10th grades this year.

  8. #7


    Great thread, I am really interested in doing philosophy with my daughter. I did some philosophy of science papers at university (with Alan Musgrave, who was a PhD student of Karl Popper), and loved it, I wish I had time to fit more in!

    A friend recommended the podcast philosophize this to me (to listen to with kids 8/9 ish up), but I have not actually had the time to check it out yet so I am not sure what area or era of philosophy it is.

  9. #8


    Quote Originally Posted by inmom View Post
    There is no Roman numeral for zero as there was no need for a numeral to represent it. The system of Roman numerals was developed as a means of trading and bartering.

    THE ancient Greeks were aware of the concept of zero (as in 'We have no marbles'), but didn't think of it as a number. Aristotle had dismissed it because you couldn't divide by zero and get a down-to-earth result.
    This is so interesting, I shall have to discuss this with my daughter. She just had the book A Place for Zero in her math reading pile, so its kind of in her mind at the moment about zero and its function.

  10. #9


    Seconding Archimedes and the Door of Science as well as Jeanne Bendick's others books - she has one about Galen and one about Herotodus.
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  11. #10


    Hi. My daughter, now 11, asked to study philosophy when she was 7 or 8. We had great discussions using materials from the free online Kids Philosophy wiki from Mt. Holyoke: <>. They create overviews and collect thematic questions on existentialism, logic, ethics, etc., using picture and chapter books. We loved using these little packets!

    She currently loves Philosophy: A Discovery in Comics and Philosophy Rocks! (a great read-aloud, and includes Plato, etc.).

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Ancient philosophy for 3rd grader