Mathematics and How it is Developed in the Classroom

In all this work in the Children’s House there is a benefit for the mathematical mind. From the sequential activities of practical life, the seriated and graded activities of sensorial, through the exploration of the mechanics of reading and writing, to the early work in geometry and arithmetic, the Children’s House experience lays a mathematical foundation for the elementary child.

Montessori stresses the importance of manipulating materials to discover answers, rather than merely memorizing math techniques. How much richer to arrange colored strips on a board to see the sum of two addends, instead of reading a flash card!  It is fundamentally different to use your hands to compare fractional pieces, instead of just learning rules for comparing the numerator and the denominator.  Who among us really understood why it worked to invert the denominator when dividing fractions? Our children do!

There are several reasons that Montessori math materials promote optimal intellectual development.  First, multi-sensory learning allows students to use various parts of their brains to learn. Hands-on manipulations encourage active, discovery learning. Second, materials encourage children to work together, and these collaborations involve lots of discussion and rationalization.  Third, Montessori students learn to strive for accuracy because the materials provide feedback.  They see their math work as puzzles to be solved, instead of assignments to be completed.  Finally, Montessori math materials are elegantly designed to use geometric relationships to show algebraic concepts.

In our work we have given a name to this part of the mind which is built up with exactitude… we call it “the mathematical mind.” I take the term from Pascal … who said that man’s mind was mathematical by nature, and that knowledge and progress come from accurate observation.” 

Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, (1949) Claude A. Claremont, trans. New York: Dell Publishing, 1967

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