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The Montessori method focuses strongly on a tactile approach to mathematics. I truly think that this is the best way to learn maths and (with careful observation of your child’s interests and development) hands on activities make learning maths enjoyable!
Maria Montessori believed that children have an innately Mathematical Mind and that a prepared environment naturally stimulates mathematical thinking. She proposed that the introduction of maths during the period of the Absorbent Mind (0-6 years) helps a child to form positive, meaningful associations with numeracy.
“The results we obtain with our little ones contrast oddly with the fact that mathematics is so often held to be a scourge rather than a pleasure in school programs. Most people have developed ‘mental barriers’ against it. Yet all is easy if only its roots can be planted in the absorbent mind” (The Absorbent Mind)
Montessori mathematical exercises give children the satisfaction of learning by discovery. Hands on materials for arithmetic are materialised abstractions. It is truly amazing to observe your child making these incredible connections with mathematical concepts! Unbeknownst to them, the mind is laying a strong foundation for understanding order, abstraction and numeracy.
The Sensitive Period for Numbers
The sensitive period for numbers 4 to 5.5 years, according to Montessori. Several things have to occur to make way for mathematical readiness:
- The child has to establish internal order,
- The child needs to develop precise movement,
- The child has an established attention span,
- The child has learned to follow a process,
- The child understands the use of symbols.
Cameron, at four years old, loves the language of mathematics. He knows the symbols for numbers and is beginning to learn the number-words. He loves to tell the time (he can tell when it is something o’clock and is often telling me when it’s almost – o’clock) and read out numbers he sees in everyday life. He’s learning the tens and basic addition and subtraction. This is all based on his interest and internal drive (I couldn’t make him if I wanted to!).
Whilst I love the Montessori specific materials, it wouldn’t be feasible to have them all in our home (both financially and regarding space). I’m reading John Bowman’s new book Teach Your 3-7 Year Old Math and it reiterates how simply we can provide meaningful Montessori-inspired maths activities without having all of the Montessori ‘pure’ materials.
Pre-maths skills include 1:1 correspondence, sorting, and matching.
Maths Activities for Children in the Sensitive Period for Numbers
Montessori maths, like I said earlier, is all about sensory experiences (tactile, visual, etc) and you won’t find worksheets or rote learning here!
Cameron is learning about some less common shapes including trapezoid, rhombus, pentagon, hexagon and octagon. This sparked an interest in the number of sides of different geometric shapes. I created this tray with our shape themed Children’s Wallet Cards (here if not in the US) and Spielgaben materials and he had fun completing this several times with my guidance.
Cameron absolutely loves our mini Montessori sandpaper numbers (we also have and adore the mini lowercase and uppercase letters!) despite knowing his numbers 0-10. He really enjoys ‘teaching’ Lucy how many each number is and estimating with our Spielgaben points. This is an activity we have done several times.
In my Spielgaben review post, I shared how you can use the triangles in Spielgaben like the Montessori blue constructive triangles. I have printed these free constructive triangle extensions (two pages per A4 make for a great size ratio) and put them in a tray for Cameron to explore. The one above (right) is the most complex card he has completed on his own.
After exploring our see through geometric solids, Cameron was interested to ‘make’ 3D geometric shapes. We used plasticine and Spielgaben alongside our wooden geometric solid set and a free black & white 3D geometric shapes printable.
It was incredible watching Cameron’s understanding evolve. Hearing him exclaim “there’s a square and a square and a square and more squares to make a cube”. We did some water pouring with our fillable transparent geometric solids as well.
I also wanted to share the amazing Montessori math materials on Etsy!