Montessori education has long been celebrated for its unique approach to teaching and learning, particularly in the realm of mathematics. In this blog post, we share some thoughts on the Montessori preschool math curriculum, highlighting its unique materials and teaching methods, and illustrating its effectiveness using some examples.

The Montessori Preschool Math Curriculum

In Montessori preschools, math is introduced at an early age, but always in a manner that is engaging, intuitive, and tailored to a child’s developmental stage. The curriculum is designed to build a strong foundation in number sense, counting, and the basic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The approach is incremental, ensuring that each new concept is firmly grounded in the child’s previous learning and, in the process, nurturing a deep understanding and love for mathematics in young minds.

Montessori Math Materials

One of the hallmarks of Montessori math is the specialized materials used in the classroom. These materials are not only visually appealing but are also designed to be tactile, encouraging children to learn through touch and manipulation. Examples include:

  • Math Beads: These are used for teaching counting, place value, and the decimal system. The beads are color-coded and come in units of ones, tens, hundreds, and thousands, making abstract concepts tangible.
  • Number Rods and Sandpaper Numbers: These tools help children associate numerical symbols with their quantities.
  • Spindle Boxes: These are used to reinforce the concept of zero and the relationship between numbers and quantities.

Dr. Maria Montessori designed the math materials with the purpose of developing the mathematical mind. These materials embody order, precision, exactness, and orientation in design. When a child reaches the age of 4, he or she moves into the sensitive period for order and precision. In the book Absorbent Mind Dr. Montessori wrote, “Order and precision, we found, were the keys to spontaneous work in the school.”  And so, within the prepared environment, a child learns to think mathematically as they work with the materials and related activities.

Learning from the Guide

In Montessori classrooms, the teacher—often referred to as a guide—plays a unique role. Rather than leading the class in a traditional sense, the Montessori guide carefully observes each child, providing individualized guidance that aligns with their current stage of development. This approach ensures that children are neither rushed nor held back, but are learning at their own pace, in a way that resonates with their personal interests and abilities.

Addition Snake Game

To illustrate how Montessori math comes together, consider the Montessori Snake Games, which include the Addition Snake Game and the Subtraction (Negative) Snake Game. They are engaging and educational tools that teach fundamental arithmetic concepts to young children and are typically introduced around ages 4 to 6. These games are highly effective due to their hands-on, visual nature, making abstract mathematical concepts accessible and engaging for young learners.

As its name implies, the aim of the Addition Snake Game is to teach addition, particularly the concept of making ten. In playing the game, the child learns the basic combinations of ten and start memorizing addition combinations. This activity uses a combination of colored beads and children create a “snake” by stringing beads together in a sequence that eventually totals ten. They then exchange these for a golden ten-bar, visually and physically demonstrating how numbers combine to form larger ones. In terms of control of error, the child can self-check by ensuring that the exchange of bead bars accurately transforms the snake into the desired golden color.

The Addition Snake Game not only helps children learn addition and its associative properties, but also understand the abstract concept of exchanging and equivalence, as well as prepares them for future work in multiplication. It also helps to reinforce color recognition and pattern creation, and the development of their fine motor skills.

Subtraction (Negative) Snake Game

The Subtraction (Negative) Snake Game is like the Addition Snake Game but is designed to introduce subtraction. It involves creating a snake with a specific number of beads and then “subtracting” beads by replacing segments of the snake with fewer beads. The aim of the game is to teach subtraction and the concept of “taking away.” Indirectly, it helps children understand negative numbers and enhances their problem-solving skills. In playing the game, children can self-correct by verifying that the subtraction process is accurately represented in the physical transformation of the snake.

Extension Activities: Guides often introduce variations and extensions to these games, such as creating specific patterns with the bead bars, incorporating storytelling into the game, or asking children to record their equations on paper.

More than a Way of Learning Numbers

Montessori Math is more than just a way of learning numbers; it’s a journey into the world of mathematics that is guided by curiosity, hands-on experience, and personalized learning. This approach not only fosters mathematical skills but also cultivates a lifelong love for learning. We invite you to explore the Montessori method further and consider its benefits for your child’s early education by scheduling a visit. Witness first-hand how the Montessori approach can ignite a passion for learning and discovery in your child, setting a strong foundation for their future academic journey.

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