Mathematics in the Montessori classroom is introduced from concrete to abstract. This logical method provides a great learning experience for children and allows them to begin to learn math concepts at a young age. Using Maria Montessori’s specially designed learning materials, children move from concrete to abstract understanding in the areas of numeration, linear counting, operations and memorization of facts. Their exploration leads to mastery of abstract concepts such as fractions.
We always talk about how the different areas of Montessori materials are connected and support each other. But how? The way Practical Life and Sensorial materials build and support foundational math skills are a great example.
Practical Life Preparation
Mastering the practical life materials is essential for the child to develop a foundation for all learning, including mathematical thinking. With lots of fine motor and gross motor practice in real life situations, the child develops coordination. By practicing skills on his own, the child gains a sense of independence and develops problem solving skills. When the child goes through all the steps of a complicated practical life activity, he develops great concentration and begins to understand sequence. Some great examples of how practical life activities help to develop specific mathematical skills are:
- Opening and closing bottles with different sized tops develops pattern recognition skills.
- Exploring keys and locks develops matching skills.
- Using tongs and tweezers to transfer objects into separate bowls develops sorting skills.
- Learning and memorizing the steps of hand washing, dressing, table washing etc. develops ordering/sequencing skills.
Materials used in the Sensorial area are more directly connected to mathematics. The design of the “pink tower”, “brown stairs”, “red rods”, and “cylinder blocks” allow children to understand the concept of comparison; larger, smaller, longer, thicker which are largely used in mathematical thinking. Mastering these concepts through the senses helps students form deep and meaningful understanding. With the help of Montessori’s Sensorial materials, students are prepared to move on to master more abstract concepts like the mathematical operations and the decimal system. Some examples of how the Sensorial area activities help to develop mathematical skills are:
- Ordering the colored cylinder blocks develops sequencing skills.
- Using the geometric cabinet to explore and match shape insets with their frames serves as an introduction to geometry.
- Arranging reds rods on a rug helps students understand scale (size) and develop number sense.
It often happens that when young children count actual objects, they say each number in sequence “1,2,3,4..”, however, they skip an object. One-to-One correspondence is being able to count the actual objects with the number words correspondingly.
Tangible Montessori materials such as the short beads bars, spindle box, cards and counters, and golden beads provide so many hands-on opportunities to let children use their body to physically work through counting or calculations. A child in a Montessori environment can quickly master one-to-one correspondence and move on to more advanced math concepts. With such a solid foundation of working with Montessori math materials, children benefit greatly in their future mathematical learning.
Ms. Hong Dega, Lead Teacher, Primary Chinese Program