Friday, May 27, 2011

Montessori Preschool Math Materials: The Spindle Boxes and Numbers and Counters

Jordan has grown leaps and bounds since he began Montessori preschool/kindergarten in September, and it is interesting to reflect back on his journey. Once Jordan had mastered the Number Rods and could correctly pair each rod together with the corresponding numeral, I introduced him to the Spindle Boxes. The numbers on the box are fixed, yet the quantity is free moving, which definitely provides a greater challenge.

Montessori Preschool Math Materials: Jordan’s Experience with the Spindle Boxes and Numbers and Counters

On his first try, Jordan was able to place the correct amount of spindles in each compartment and was very proud that he did it without any help. He also liked the fact that he didn't get “tricked” by the ‘0’ compartment … he knew right away not to put in any spindles. I knew he was clearly ready to give the Numbers and Counters a try!

NAMC montessori preschool math materials spindle box numbers and counters

With the Numbers and Counters, nothing is fixed. Both the Numbers as well as the Counters are free-moving, presenting a much bigger challenge for the student. I gave Jordan the basket of Numbers and asked him if he would put them in order at the top of his mat from 1 to 10. At first he mixed up the 6 and 9, but quickly corrected this. Once he had the Numbers in the correct order, I asked him if he would begin placing the Counters below the Numbers.

I pointed to the number ‘1’ and asked him to tell me the name of the symbol. Jordan responded, “one”. Next, I asked if he would place one Counter below the number one. We continued in this manner all the way to the number 10, and I showed Jordan how to place the Counters in pairs.

Placing the Counters in pairs below each Number is a wonderful visual for demonstrating the concept of odd and even numbers.

Jordan still enjoys working with the Numbers and Counters. Every time I change the Counters, it seems to renew his interest in the activity. Some of the Counters he has enjoyed the most include: pennies, shells, smooth river rocks, pieces of “gold”, and most of all, the dinosaur counters!

This year long series looks at the experiences of teachers, parents, students, and Montessori education itself, as we follow a student through his first year at a Montessori Preschool. Montessori Insights and Reflections of a Preschool Child’s First Year is a collection of useful stories, tips, and information that have arisen from one real student's Montessori journey.

Bree — NAMC Tutor & Graduate

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 Friday, May 27, 2011.


  1. In our school we have spiders, butterflies, plastic gems, and colorful fish as counters. They do really enjoy this work with some variety, but of course, always keeping an eye on the kids to remind them proper way to develop the activity, in case they start just playing with the counters.


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