The Montessori math materials are perhaps some of the most inviting and beautiful works in the Montessori classroom. Visitors to my Montessori classroom, young and old alike, gravitate to the math shelves, wanting touch and learn how to use the materials. “Show me this. How does this work?” they ask. Adults usually sigh and wistfully say, “I wish I had learned math this way”. Enjoy this in depth look as we explain Montessori Math curriculum materials, activities, and philosophy.
Montessori Curriculum Explained: Math Materials, Activities and PhilosophyMontessori Math: Ages 0-6
Maria Montessori believed that the children can absorb mathematical concepts naturally. She recognized that there were sensitive periods in the child’s development whereby the acquisition of mathematics was eagerly and joyfully explored through indirect preparation and repetition of activities with concrete, scientifically developed didactic materials. By means of the Montessori Practical Life and Sensorial activities, children experience the concepts of order, sequence, measurement, calculations, and exactness.
In order to fully develop the developing mathematical mind, Montessori teachers and parents acquaint the child with order and exactness by the intentional way we set up and organize the shelves and trays and how work is laid out on a work mat in the Montessori environment. Work is displayed in a progressive and sequential fashion and each activity is broken down into logical and sequential steps. Young Montessori students learn about making calculations and estimating by determining how many drops of water it takes to fill a vessel and about precision and exactness by learning to measure out drops of food coloring or plant food. These Montessori Practical Life activities not only help the child gain independence, but also provide the indirect preparation for higher level math skills.
The Montessori Sensorial activities help the child learn to discriminate between similarities and differences. Young Montessori students discover relationships, make scientific hypothesis, and draw conclusions as they construct and compare a series of sensorial activities. The activities heighten the child’s awareness of the mathematical relationships found in the natural world.
As the child develops in the Montessori environment, she is ready to encounter more concrete math materials in which to explore more abstract thought, beginning with quantity. Dr. Montessori discovered that a child who could count and recognize the symbols 1-9 could count in quantities of hundreds and thousands. The Montessori “Golden Bead” material was developed to give children the concrete exploration of the decimal system.
Montessori Math: Lower Elementary
The lower elementary Montessori classroom is full of ongoing discoveries. Spurred on by the telling of the fifth Great Lesson, “The History of Mathematics”, children are motivated to learn about their own number system and uncover the mysteries as did those who came before.
Montessori lower elementary age children are much more social beings than they were in the Montessori Children’s House. They enjoy working collaboratively and sharing their discoveries with each other. After all, the laws of the universe are too incredible not to share!
Montessori Math: Upper Elementary
The inquisitiveness of the upper elementary Montessori student is astounding. The beauty of the advanced squaring and cubing materials beckons like beacons, inviting the students to come explore and learn with them. They dive into the study of fractions and decimals, eager to move beyond to more complex mathematics, geometry, and algebra. While the concrete materials are still in place, the need for repetition is gone. “Show me. Then, show me more” is the litany of the upper elementary Montessori math students. Upper elementary students move quickly from the concrete experience to abstract thought. They are eager to test their knowledge with pencil and paper and need, at times, a gentle reminder to return to the materials as a way of building neurological pathways.
See other related NAMC blogs:
- Montessori Curriculum Overview: Sciences
- Montessori Curriculum Overview: Geography
- Montessori Curriculum Overview: Language Arts
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community. © the North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, June 8, 2010.