Math…the Montessori way!

Posted on by Claire Aerdeman

When parents observe my Lower Elementary classroom, I often hear the same idea expressed. “I wish I had learned math this way! Maybe I would like math more.” While I personally loved math, I often questioned why or how or who said so! I didn’t just want solutions; I wanted a true understanding. Maria Montessori’s materials and method provide just that.

Montessori Bead Stairs

So what makes Montessori math so different from traditional mathematics teachings? Maria Montessori was first a scientist before becoming a teacher. She spent years studying children and how they interacted with their environments and objects in their environments. From these studies, she developed materials that allowed children to experience mathematical concepts with their hands. In The Absorbent Mind, Montessori states, “He does it with his hands, by experience, first in play and then in work. The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.”

Montessori Red Rods

In Children’s House, children experience mathematical concepts when using the red and blue rods, the brown stairs, the pink tower, the sandpaper numerals, the colored bead bars, and more. These materials allow the child to use his/her senses to begin to form concepts of quantity, number, size, length, weight, comparison, patterning and much more. The child uses beautiful, concrete objects to form abstract ideas. He or she goes “From the education of the senses to general notions, from general notions to abstract thought, from abstract thought to mortality,” quoted from The Montessori Method. In addition, as a child scrubs a chair, polishes, or scoops and pours, the child is indirectly developing concentration, problem-solving, and spatial relationships as they carefully follow the steps to complete chosen tasks.

Montessori Division

As the child enters elementary, pathways have been etched for mathematical thinking.
At this level, the hands and minds are busy with the golden beads, the stamp game, the bead frame, fraction pieces, bead chains, and more concrete materials than can be listed here. Through careful manipulation of concrete materials, the child works through addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, powers of numbers, and even algebraic concepts. The child moves from the concrete to more abstract thinking as they use these materials and begin to create their own understanding.

Mathematics is also put into historical perspective with origin stories of numbers, geometry, and measurement that walk children through the history of math through various cultures so that they see math as an integral part of life. This connection is evident in middle school as they apply these skills to the creation of roller coasters, management of money in a business committee, budgeting and shopping to prepare meals for the class, and calculating water quality of a watershed.

Montessori Math

Hands-on, concrete, beautiful, engaging materials are what initially set Montessori math apart from traditional math. Your child and their discoveries with these materials are what truly make Montessori math different from all others!

Molly Bernhardt,
Lower Elementary Teacher


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West Side Montessori is an independent, accredited Montessori school educating children 13 months through 8th grade (preschool, kindergarten, elementary and middle school) with locations at 13587 Roachton Rd in Perrysburg, Ohio, and 7115 W. Bancroft Street in Toledo, Ohio.