Montessori math constitutes superb brain-based learning. Robert Sylvester (A Biological Brain in a Cultural Classroom) states, “It is not the number of neurons itself that determines our mental characteristics; it is how they are connected;” and Eric Jensen (Teaching with the Brain in Mind), “The key to getting smarter is growing more synaptic connections between brain cells and not losing existing connections…The single best way to grow a better brain is through challenging problem solving.” Michael explains that unused connections are pruned, so the neurological rule is, “Use it or lose it.” All of this suggests that the best way to learn is to engage all the lobes of cerebrum, activating visual and auditory memory, along with controlled movement and problem-solving. Activities that cross hemispheres force interactions of logic and creativity. Take a look and you will see this built into the design of all Montessori learning materials.
The key to this benefit lies in what Dr. Montessori called “materialized abstractions”. Her concrete hands-on materials present relationships for higher thinking later in life by creating impressions for abstraction. She observed that the hands are the tools of the mind, and provided for this natural activity in a systematic way. From spontaneous individual work the child gains what formal education could never teach later, the physical manipulation of abstract concepts.
As a Montessori parent be dissuaded from “helping” your child by teaching number tricks or doing lots of drills. These short cuts can short-circuit deeper learning. “Drill for skill ” is great for parrots but not for children. Parents can trust the benefits of Montessori mathematics approach and the deeper understanding it develops. As a parent avoid judging your child’s mathematics progress only by standardized test scores or the ability to answer correctly when quizzed. Let’s advocate for our children’s mathematical abilities to run deep and evolve naturally with interest that is truly intrinsic.
“My vision of the future is no longer of people taking exams and proceeding on that certificate from the secondary school to the University, but the individuals passing from one stage of independence to a higher, by means of their own activity,through their own effort of will, which constitutes the inner evolution of the individual.”