Our classroom is buzzing with spring fever, and we are enjoying every minute of this beautiful weather! We have been learning more about weather, and each child will have the chance to be meteorologist for a day this semester. We have had the opportunity to go out as a class to see a show at the Walton Arts Center called The Boggety World of Henry and Bucket and second and third years have been to see a production called Waves. The children are also enjoying studying Asia this semester. So far, we have focused on China, India and Japan. February 27 through March 3 we celebrated Montessori week! Children learned more about Maria Montessori’s life and wrote a biography during this week. Additionally, Ms. Lynette and I gave a parent education this semester on math materials. We gave division lessons through each level of learning, beginning with the division board and ending with Racks and Tubes.
The Montessori math curriculum is easily my favorite part of the Montessori methodology. Each lesson, no matter how seemingly simple, is ensuring that children develop a sense of order, progress from concrete to abstraction, make their own discoveries and truly understand mathematical theorems. The math materials in the elementary curriculum especially promote the child’s progress from concrete to abstract. Students develop a strong visualization in their memory that will help guide them in all their future math courses. In The Advanced Montessori Method Volume I, Montessori describes the benefits of this tenet. “Thus, passing from simple objects to objects of ever-increasing complexity, he becomes possessed of a culture; moreover, he organizes his character by means of the internal order which forms itself within him, and by the skill which he acquires.” (Montessori, 1999, p. 151).
In the elementary classroom, many children are beginning this journey to abstraction. Many first year students work with the stamp game, which encourages repetition and order. They are working on multiplication and seeing the similarities with addition through the movement of the stamps in each equation. Several second year students have progressed to the bead frames, which promote another level of abstraction. Instead of counting each stamp, they are using beads to represent quantities and understand the reason for exchanges and “borrowing.” Other students, such as some second year and third year students, have moved on to materials that require an immense amount of concentration. Racks and tubes is a popular lesson in the lower elementary classroom. Children aspire to work with large numbers and are excited to do long division using the small beads kept in test tubes, which allow them to do problems that you would never imagine a 7 or 8 year old doing! Montessori said. “The hands are the instruments to man’s intelligence.” This is especially true for the math. The materials encourage true understanding of mathematical concepts and bring so much joy to the children. It is one of the greatest pleasures of my day to see children working on long division problems with smiles and giggles and asking if they can do more than the recommended number of problems. Montessori math encourages this joy of learning because it takes the mystery out of math. Each child can experience success and growth in math in the Montessori classroom through the beautiful and concrete materials.