Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator, revolutionized early childhood education with her groundbreaking insights into child development. Central to her philosophy is the belief in the innate potential of children to learn and grow when provided with the right environment and tools. That environment, affectionately known within Montessori as the prepared environment, is a carefully curated space designed to inspire curiosity and facilitate self-directed exploration. In the Montessori classroom, children engage in uninterrupted blocks of work known as the 3-hour work cycle within this environment, during which they have the freedom to explore and engage with materials at their own pace.

The Tens Board

The Montessori Tens Board is a key component of the math curriculum, serving as a concrete representation of place value and numerical relationships. Introduced typically around the ages of 4 to 5, the Tens Board provides children with a hands-on way to explore and understand the concept of tens and units. The Tens Board consists of two wooden boards with compartments for arranging wooden numerals. One board has five printed number slots (10–50) and the other has four printed number slots (60–90). The material also comes with nine wooden cards printed with the numerals 1 through 9. When the cards are slid into the frame, they cover up one of the two digits, thereby creating the numbers 11, 12, 13, and so on.

Using the Tens Board, children explore the number names of the tens and the sequence of numbers 11-99 and as such, offers a tactile and visual approach to mathematical learning. Through hands-on manipulation of the wooden numerals and placement on the board, children develop a deep understanding of the relationship between tens and units and the composition of larger numbers. This foundational knowledge forms the basis for more advanced mathematical concepts and operations in later years.

The Tens Board also plays a crucial role in laying the groundwork for more advanced mathematical concepts by helping children grasp the concept of place value—the idea that the value of a digit depends on its position within a number. Through activities with the Tens Board, children learn to visually represent numbers, compose and decompose quantities, and perform basic arithmetic operations such as addition and subtraction. By manipulating the wooden numerals and arranging them on the board, children develop a deeper understanding of numerical relationships and gain confidence in their mathematical abilities.

Presentation by Montessori Guides

In the Montessori classroom, the Tens Board is introduced gradually and sequentially, following the child’s natural progression of learning. Montessori guides begin by presenting the concept of tens and units using concrete materials such as the Golden Beads or the Hundred Chain. Once children have a solid understanding of these concepts, they are introduced to the Tens Board as a tool for further exploration and practice. Guides demonstrate how to use the Tens Board to build numbers, compare quantities, and perform mathematical operations, providing individualized support and guidance as children engage with the material.

Once children have developed a solid understanding of place value and numerical composition through the Tens Board, they progress to the Teens Board which we wrote about here to further refine their skills and explore the intricacies of two-digit numbers. This sequential presentation ensures that children build upon their existing knowledge and skills in a systematic and scaffolded manner.

Integration Within the Curriculum

The Tens Board is integrated seamlessly within the broader math curriculum of Montessori education, aligning with the standards set forth by Dr. Maria Montessori and the American Montessori Society. As children progress through the curriculum, they encounter increasingly complex mathematical concepts and materials that build upon their foundational knowledge of place value and numerical operations. The Tens Board serves as a steppingstone on this mathematical journey, empowering children to develop a deep and enduring understanding of mathematics.

To learn more about the Montessori math curriculum, read our previous blog on Understanding the Montessori Math Curriculum.

Groundwork to Math Fluency

In the Montessori classroom, the Tens Board is more than just a math material—it’s a gateway to a world of mathematical discovery and exploration. By providing children with hands-on experiences that engage their senses and ignite their curiosity, the Tens Board lays the groundwork for a lifelong love of learning and mathematical fluency. Through guided exploration and individualized instruction, Montessori guides empower children to unlock the mysteries of mathematics and embark on a journey of intellectual growth and discovery.

Still Curious?

The best way to really understand the Montessori Tens Board is to see it in action.  Schedule a visit to watch children working with the material in the classroom or attend a parent education session.

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