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Unlocking the Mystery of Math

The development of mathematical competencies begins with songs, stories and observing the patterns and quantities around us. Before long, children want to sort, symbolize and scribe in order to organize and define the impressions they receive from their surroundings.

The Montessori environment recognizes a child’s instinct to coordinate information by providing an array of materials designed to further their knowledge and skills.

It is clear that the Montessori Method and Philosophy is still as engaging and successful as it was over a hundred years ago as it was taking root as a recognized teaching approach. With the National Math Standards we ask the question: Does the Montessori curriculum stand up to current research-based understandings and align with these important expectations? The answer is: Yes!

Math in the Montessori environment covers the five key content standards identified as essential for all students enrolled in preschool to grade 12 programs. They represent what students should be equipped with as they move along their educational path. Mathematical understanding, knowledge and skills are developed through rigorous investigation, exploration, practice and “showing what you know” opportunities from preschool through high school. The five key content standards are: Numbers and Operations, Algebra, Geometry, Measurement, and Data Analysis and Probability. Students practice vital skills that relate to the process students undertake to resolve mathematical questions. They are Problem Solving, Reasoning & Proof, Communication, Connections, and Representation. All of which can be found happening every day in our Montessori classrooms.

great example of the time-tested Montessori material is that found in the Math areas of our classrooms. The program begins with the sandpaper numbers that invite children to trace the numerals 0-9 to feel its shape, learn its name and differentiate it from other symbols presented. The children move on to develop an understanding of the quantities associated with the symbols 0-9 using the Red and Blue Rods, Colored Bead Stair and Spindle Boxes. Children explore the symbols and quantities for numbers 1-9999 using the Teen and Ten Boards, Hundred Board, Golden Bead materials, and Long and Short Chains. These hands-on manipulatives are explored by children every day during their work time with follow-up worksheets and notebook documentation.

The children move steadily towards abstraction with the use of the Golden Bead Materials to initiate their studies of the four operations; addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. At first the children familiarize themselves with the numeral cards that aid in the construction of numbers 1-9999, then the related quantities and finally the manipulation of two or more numbers for the purpose of performing a set operation. They may add 3,472 and 1,225 in a static addition problem. They derive the sum by adding in each place value starting with the ones and ending with the thousands. Eventually they move to dynamic addition by exchanging 10 of one place value for one of the next place value. The manipulation of didactic materials establishes a kinesthetic memory that is reflected upon when the child moves to pencil and paper calculations at a later stage. This happens organically whether the child is adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing. Children have a more successful experience performing operations abstractly if they have had hands-on experience prior to using only pencil and paper. YouTube video “An Introduction to the Montessori Math Curriculum” provides a partial, yet informative presentation of the Montessori Math Curriculum.


Eventually students in the elementary learning environment will become familiar with the use of the Stamp Game, Small and Large Bead Frames, Checker Board, and Racks and Tubes. This is when the child slowly realizes through experience that they can derive the sum, difference, product and quotient without the use of the materials. They can perform complex multiplication problems with partial products easily. Memorization of facts is founded on the rich experience they have with the materials. Application of skills and knowledge in the solving of word problems becomes of interest as they figure out that using operations can help them answer different types of questions.

We have the most amazing students. They are confident, focused, and assertive learners. They are able to articulate their learning goals clearly and those curriculum categories that are of interest to them. They are true examples of a 21st century learner!

Take a look at our published SMORE: The Magnificent Montessori Math to learn more about the ways in which Montessori Country Day School encourages mathematical thinking.  https://www.smore.com/5czxt-the-magnificent-montessori-math




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