Tuesday, August 07, 2012

My Most Rewarding Montessori Student - Number Troubles

NAMC montessori student most rewarding number troubles

From Lisha —

My first Montessori teaching job started a few months into the school year. As a result, the children were all happily working and interacting with each other and the materials by the time I joined their classroom. All except one little girl that is — Isabella. I asked the other teacher why Isabella was alone, and she said that she was still trying to figure out this little girl….Isabella was not interested in working with anyone or learning anything.

Thoughts from other Montessori teachers on most rewarding students...

I asked if it was okay if I tried with her. I gently approached Isabella. I explained to her that I was new and asked if she could show me around the classroom. She agreed, took my hand, and toured me around the room. When the tour was finished, I asked Isabella if she wanted to work with any material together and she declined, which was just fine.

The next day, when I greeted the children, I shook Isabella’s hand and commented on the pretty dress that she had worn to school. She told me that she had a lot of pretty dresses at home and skipped into the classroom. During work time, I noticed that she was wandering around by herself, so I asked her if I could introduce her to the Sandpaper Numbers. She agreed and I was thrilled; she was the very first student to whom I was going to teach! I presented a three-period lesson with numerals 1, 2 and 3.

Despite my high hopes, the lesson did not go as smoothly as I had hoped. Isabella had a difficult time recognizing the numeral 1, and I did not know what to do, as it is the very first number. Over the next little while, Isabella and I worked together on ideas to help her to remember the numbers. For example, 1 looked like a stick; 3 looked like Mickey Mouse ears sideways; 5 wore a hat, had a neck and a big belly, etc. We finally got up to number 7, 8, and 9, but we were stuck. I spoke with her mother and she said that Isabella was eager to learn her numbers and was practicing and practicing at home.

After months and months of continuing to learn numbers 7, 8, and 9, I sat down with her and played the “knock-knock” game. Isabella would knock on the face down number, and I would ask who was there, then she would flip over the number and identify it. She knocked and I asked who was there and she replied, “Eight.” I was shocked that she got it correct! She knocked again and told me it was “nine” and then it was “seven.” I could not believe it and I think she was surprised, too! I quickly turned the numbers over again and we repeated the activity — she knocked and answered them all correctly again! Well, I just could not help myself and I started to cry. I remember her asking me why I was crying and I told her that I was just so proud that she never gave up.

Over the next few weeks, I could see Isabella’s confidence starting to rise. She started speaking during circle time and interacting with some of the other children. Isabella’s success showed me how important it is for a teacher to have patience and perseverance. Working with her was one of my best and certainly most memorable lessons as a Montessori teacher.
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.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, August 7, 2012.


  1. That's a great example of how to find a way to connect with a young learner. You never know what little touches will affect a child's development!

  2. Thanks for posting! I have a student I have been wondering how to reach that sounds just like Isabella. Thanks again!

  3. I am a teacher in training, and I love this story. However, had I tried something like that, then I would have the head teacher after me, asking why I was trying my own things and why I wasn't following her rules about how to work with the numbers. I am actually really frustrarated about my co-workers. I love teaching, not my co-teachers. I wonder if other schools run this way.

  4. Dear Anonymous, I'm sorry to hear you are feeling frustrated. While the above example is not about using traditional Montessori methods, it is an excellent example of what we mean by 'follow the child'. Dr. Montessori was constantly developing new methods and materials in order to best accommodate the needs of the children. While the materials and language used may not be seen as 'traditional', the philosophy behind using what interests the child certainly is. I wonder what would happen if you shared this blog with your head teacher. It might open up a dialog with her. I have taught in several Montessori schools and can assure you that some are very accommodating and flexible about helping each child lean and succeed.


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