By Jean C. Avery
Math was used by mankind ages ago as a tool for practical application. In time it made way for specific abstract rules by which we know math today.
Dr. Maria Montessori, the founder of the Montessori Method, saw the benefit of this practical application paving the way for abstract thinking, she developed the Montessori Math Curriculum based on experiences of concrete (hands on manipulations) of math learning materials.
Exercises of Practical Life and Sensorial materials have facilitated and established a basis for the Mathematical mind. In a Montessori Classroom it becomes obvious when a child has developed a math readiness and is ready to progress to the actual math materials. Unlike traditional teaching philosophies, Montessori believes in a math readiness before beginning the formal math program.
There is a general sequence of presentation in the Montessori Math Curriculum:
1. Concrete to abstract
2. Quantity before symbol
3. Combination of quantity and symbol.
4. Presentation are always from top to bottom and left to right except when working with place value (1000,100,10,1.) It goes from right to left for computation and operations.
Exercises of Practical Life and Sensorial materials have facilitated and established a basis for the mathematical mind. In a Montessori Classroom, it becomes obvious when a child has developed a math readiness and is prepared to grasp new concepts and progress to the actual math materials. Unlike traditional teaching philosophies, Montessori believes in a math readiness before beginning the formal math program.
A general guide for math readiness is demonstrated when a child can place the red rods from ascending to descending order (shortest to longest rods.)It indicated a readiness to understand one to ten. At this time the number rods are introduced. These number robs are exact in length as the red rods, but are colored in alternating red and blue sections to distinguish 1-10. Correlating the quantity of each number with the numeral itself is one of the first skills as a child begins his/her math journey. Since our number system is based on the decimal system of base 10…understanding 1-10 is of utmost importance.
The Montessori approach allows the child to explore math concepts by moving objects with his/her hands and exercising multi-sensorial experiences. Sandpaper numbers, number rods, bead stair, chains, teens board, tens board, counters game, snake game, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division boards, all contribute to motor and visual memory. Basically, there are several different materials and exercises to teach the same concept and, therefore, approaching each child’s learning from different presentations.
Core to the Montessori Math program is the Golden Bead materials. Introduction of the categories of unit, ten, hundred, and thousand begins with the very young children. Very confidently, Montessori students continue to use the golden bead materials as they master complex numbers and the working of the decimal systems in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
More advanced math materials include the stamp game, the dot game, bead frames, fraction boards, and other creative extensions of the original Montessori materials.
Because math is so abstract, the Montessori approach to presenting math skills is very effective. The materials are very impressive and the results in learning are extraordinary. What is so remarkable about the Montessori teaching technique is that for over one hundred years its global perspective has successfully impacted the world.
Text & photography by Jean C. Avery