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Mathematical Minds in a Montessori Classroom

Maria Montessori believed children were born with a tendency towards order, exactness, and logic. She termed this the ‘mathematical mind’. Since they also absorb information quickly and easily when they are young, her method also introduces mathematics very early in childhood development.

Children explore mathematics through hands-on experiences. They pair, match, and sort shapes and make patterns and sequences to create order. The idea is form a positive association with numbers to build a strong foundation for more complex mathematics later such as arithmetic, geometry and algebra.

Children can hold the math materials in the Montessori classroom in their hands. They see and feel numbers and are exposed to math through incremental opportunities. When they grasp the abstract concept they no longer need the physical objects and can work things out on paper or in their head.

Work starts with a series of ten blue and red number rods that get progressively larger to represent the numbers 1 through ten. The child can see that the number one is smaller than number two, and that number ten is larger than number nine. Later, they learn the symbol and the name of the number.

Children use other materials and count too. They may place wooden spindles in compartments labeled 1 through 9. They may also use sandpaper numbers to trace their outline and learn their shapes to ready themselves for writing.

Once the child grasps the first ten numbers, they are introduced to golden bead materials and the basics of the decimal system. A single golden bead represents the number 1; a group of 10 beads strung together represents 10, 100 beads form a square of ten groups of ten, and so on. The child builds visual representations of the numbers and sees the symbol on an associated card.

Later, the beads are used to teach basic operations such as addition, subtraction,

multiplication, and division. Young children progress from simple problems to more complex, dynamic challenges such as swapping smaller units for larger ones and adding a zero to a number to represent a larger unit.


If you’re considering a Montessori education for your child, please contact us. You are more than welcome to schedule a tour at Sunset Montessori Community or we can answer any questions you have about our center, programs, and pricing.

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