Thursday, December 20, 2012

Building Fraction Knowledge with Montessori Materials and Methods

NAMC is pleased to feature a guest blogger today. Laura Kane is a recent graduate of NAMC’s Lower Elementary Diploma Program. Laura was kind enough to share her thoughts on the benefits of Montessori materials and methods in building fraction knowledge. Welcome, Laura!

As my own memories of learning in a traditional classroom and my current discussions with parents of school-age children confirm, learning about fractions is one of the most confusing and frustrating learning experiences for traditionally educated elementary-age students (and their parents).
NAMC montessori materials methods fraction girl counting skittles dreidel
Laura’s daughter Abby (age 6) applies the fraction knowledge she has built with Montessori materials to her dreidel game. After winning half the pot, she is separating the candies into two piles to see how many she gets to keep
For instance, my daughter was playing dreidel over the weekend and had to figure out what "half" of the pot of 12 M&Ms was.

A Teacher’s Reflection on the Benefits of Building Fraction Knowledge with Montessori Materials and Methods

Students learning about fractions using materials such as the Fraction Circles, Fraction Circle Box, and the green skittles benefit greatly from the concrete, consistent, and gradual nature of the Montessori approach. Instead of simply using drawings representing fractional parts, Montessori students are able to feel (as well as see) fractions like 1/10, 2/5, and 3/4 and can use these inviting materials to discover for themselves concepts such as equivalent fractions.

In addition, the same materials (Fraction Circles and Fraction Circle Box and even the green skittles from the teaching of division with whole numbers) and terms (describing denominators as “families” and “sharing equally” for division) are used to explore many different concepts. This allows students to focus on the new concept at hand while understanding how each new concept relates to those that have preceded it. For instance, the Montessori student learning to divide fractions by whole numbers will not see this as a completely foreign and daunting task because both the materials and the terminology used will remind her of learning to divide whole numbers by whole numbers.
Finally, the Montessori student learning about fractions benefits from the emphasis on presenting new concepts gradually, one-by-one, based on student readiness. The materials are always present and the student can work with them as many times as she desires, perhaps even requesting a review presentation of a tricky concept, before being asked to grasp a new aspect of working with fractions.

Overall, the Montessori approach to learning fractions should prevent students from “hating” fractions by ensuring that they are only asked to do what they are developmentally ready to do and by making learning about fractions easy and fun through the use of consistent materials and focused, individual lessons.
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 Thursday, December 20, 2012.


  1. I love the Montessori fraction material!

    And most of all, I love how when the children are ready to work with fractions smaller than 1/10, they have also been working with the 1/1 through 1/10 so much, that we can provide that very basic material that allows for abstraction into any fraction of their choice, instead of then pulling out 1/11 through 1/20 fraction circles and limiting them there.

    So we might stick with basic materials longer than a typical school, but when it's time to go to abstraction - the children just soar!!!



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