The Discovery of the Child, p. 279.
The Power of Concrete MaterialsOne of the fundamental principles of Montessori education is providing children with concrete materials that represent abstract concepts. These materials engage multiple senses, allowing children to explore, manipulate, and internalize complex ideas in a concrete and tangible manner. As children practice using these materials, they develop a strong foundation of understanding which makes the transition to abstract thinking far easier. Concrete materials, such as the Sandpaper Letters for language, facilitate hands-on learning experiences that accommodate different learning styles, ensuring a deeper level of comprehension.
Building a Solid FoundationBy engaging with Montessori materials, young learners gain a thorough understanding of the concepts they represent. For instance, before moving to pencil-and-paper methods for addition or subtraction, children are introduced to the Golden Beads material. This material helps them grasp the concept of place value and understand the regrouping or “exchanging” process, as they physically exchange units for tens, tens for hundreds, and hundreds for thousands. By actively participating in this concrete practice, children develop a profound understanding of mathematical operations, paving the way for successful abstraction later on.
Sensorial Exploration and Mathematical ConceptsThe Montessori approach recognizes the importance of the senses in a child's development. Sensorial exploration serves as a bridge between the concrete and the abstract, aiding in the acquisition of mathematical concepts. A material like the Pink Tower, which is introduced around age 3, seems like a simple stacking exercise. However, as the child works with the Pink Tower, they are gaining a hands-on understanding of the properties of diameter, height, width, length, area, and volume. The Pink Tower also concretely demonstrates base 10 in both quantity and measurement: there are 10 pink cubes and each successive cube increase by one unit (1 cm) on all sides; therefore, the cubes increase in size in three dimensions — length, width, and height. Another early childhood material, the Constructive Triangles explore geometric shapes, allowing children to visually and kinesthetically experience how all non-curvilinear plane geometric shapes can be constructed from triangles, the closed figure with the fewest sides. Through these experiences, children develop spatial awareness, visual discrimination, and an intuitive understanding of mathematical relationships.
Fostering Engagement and InterestMontessori materials have a remarkable ability to captivate children's attention and foster a genuine interest in learning. The carefully designed materials are aesthetically appealing, inviting children to explore and discover. The use of engaging materials encourages active participation, concentration, and a sense of accomplishment when a child successfully completes a task. By utilizing Montessori materials, educators provide children with an enjoyable learning experience, laying the groundwork for a lifelong love of learning.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, September 5, 2023.