# Math Area Is an Integral Part of the Overall Montessori Curriculum

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The Math area is an essential part of the Montessori curriculum as it demonstrates how mathematics is present in our daily lives. Starting from a young age, children are introduced to numbers and begin to grasp concepts such as time, money, and quantities. Incorporating math into the Montessori curriculum is significant because not only are the materials visually attractive and engaging, but they are also specifically created to be easily understood by children. This enables them to develop a solid understanding of mathematical concepts.

Children in my classroom are able to relate numbers to real objects, which helps them understand abstract ideas. Math materials in the classroom teach various skills simultaneously and enable children to work independently and be successful. The materials are visually appealing, with bright colors. Among the favorite materials are the golden beads, especially the one thousand cube, as well as the red and blue rods and bead cabinets. The smooth, shiny texture of the golden beads attracts children to engage with them. Additionally, we frequently modify the objects and counters in accordance with different themes or seasons throughout the year.

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During winter, small snowflakes are used as counters. Pumpkins have also been used during the fall season. In the spring, shamrocks have been used. Concrete objects are used in math materials to teach abstract ideas such as counting. The concrete represents the number or quantity, while the abstract represents the numeral or symbol. When presenting the spindle boxes, you first say “this says 1” and then pick up one spindle and say “this is one.” This consistently reinforces the relationship from abstract to concrete. Moreover, many of the math materials teach multiple skills simultaneously.

For instance, both the long and short chain activities simultaneously teach addition and multiplication. Math materials are designed to encourage independent work, fostering confidence in children. Additionally, many math problems have only one solution, serving as a form of error control. It is our responsibility to stimulate the innate mathematical mind that children are born with. They engage in activities such as collecting, sorting, counting, and organizing items. They also compare sizes while carrying heavy objects, distinguishing between light and heavy items. According to Maria Montessori, a mathematical mind is constructed with precision.

According to Maria Montessori in her book, “The Absorbent Mind” (pp. 189,190), the mathematical mind is evident in children from the very beginning. This is shown not only through the child’s inclination towards precision in every action, but also in their strong desire for order during their early years. Montessori emphasizes that the mathematical mind has a natural tendency to estimate, quantify, identify similarities and differences, recognize patterns, establish order and sequence, and strive for error control. She believed that children from birth to age 6 possess an absorbent mind with these mathematical inclinations.

According to Dr. Montessori, children have a distinctive sensitivity during this phase that enables them to absorb information around them. This unique sensitivity allows children to adapt to life through observation and absorption. Dr. Montessori’s research highlights the exceptional ability of children to assimilate and integrate information from their environment. She also identified specific periods in which children can easily acquire particular skills, referring to them as “windows of opportunity.” Once these critical periods close, it becomes more challenging for children to gain those abilities.

Montessori referred to them as sensitive periods of development, which she believed to be crucial for a child’s self development. These sensitive periods encompass order, movement, language, beauty, and detail. The math area appeals to all of these sensitive periods. In the math area, maintaining order on the shelf is vital, as is the sequential presentation of activities. The sensitive period for movement is interacted with in various activities, such as the Decimal layout activity where children must move back and forth from the bank. This intentional movement fulfills their sensitive period for movement.

The sensitive period for language is crucial, and precise language is used in many math activities. The hand is directly corresponding to what is being said, using phrases such as “This is,” “this says,” and “same as.” The activity involves assembling or combining items as it is presented. Maria Montessori states in her book The Discovery of the Child that this system of hands-on manipulation and sensory exploration also considers a child’s natural inclination for mathematics. Math activities also address the sensitive period for beauty.

The activities are visually appealing, and they elicit a sense of wonder. The golden beads glisten and shimmer when exposed to sunlight. The various manipulatives and objects employed are vibrant and have pleasing textures and appearance. All the materials are tidy and intact. The sensitive period for paying attention to detail in the math area is catered to through several math activities. The arrangement of materials and their presentation must be meticulous. The movement of the hands must imitate the precise language utilized. Each new concept intrigues children, building upon previous ones and introducing something novel.

Children are naturally fascinated by numbers and numerals, as they are constantly surrounded by them. Nursery rhymes often introduce children to numbers through hearing. Even if a child is not initially interested in math, their specific hobbies or interests can be used to engage them in learning math. It is important for math materials to be visually appealing and easily interactive for children, especially visual learners. Visual learners also pay attention to visual cues from their teacher, so it is crucial for teachers to appear enthusiastic and happy during presentations.

Some children are auditory learners; they focus on tone of voice, pitch, and speed when learning. To cater to these learners, teachers should use precise and purposeful language. In the math area, teachers can also use precise language during presentations and employ the three period lessons whenever possible. It is important to follow the sequential order of materials on the shelf and encourage children to create extensions that expand their understanding. Building up the necessary skills and concepts in the math area requires a series of preparations.

Children are indirectly introduced to various skills such as order, concentration, coordination, and independence through practical life and sensorial activities. These activities include sorting and grasping, which prepare them for math tasks. Sequential activities like cutting vegetables, table scrubbing, and dish washing help children develop the ability to concentrate for extended periods. This concentration is essential for math activities that involve sitting through lengthy presentations or completing tasks like the decimal layout.

Various practical life activities contribute to the development of a child’s large and small muscle coordination. Specifically, activities such as spooning, pouring, and tweezing enhance their small muscle coordination, which will be beneficial when they need to manipulate small beads in the math area. Additionally, practical life activities enable children to gain independence by teaching them how to dress themselves, tie their shoelaces, and care for their environment. These essential skills provide children with confidence and allow them to function without relying on an adult’s assistance. Moreover, many practical life and sensorial activities also prepare children for math concepts.

The concept of one to one correspondence, defined as the awareness of pairing two groups so that each item in one group is paired with one item in the other group, can be seen in various practical life activities like nuts and bolts, cooking, and dressing frames. Additionally, it is present in sensorial activities such as sound cylinders, geometric cabinets, and metal insets. By understanding and applying the concept of one to one correspondence in these different areas, children can develop the ability to count objects accurately and connect them to the appropriate numeral in mathematics.

In the sensory area, the combination concept is taught through the color tablets and the triangular box. Similarly, in mathematics, the combination concept is used to teach addition and multiplication. In the sensory area, activities like the baric tablets, color tablets, and the pink tower teach the concept of gradation. Moreover, in various math activities, children will utilize the concept of gradation to enhance their understanding of cardinal and ordinal numbers, as well as the concepts of less than and greater than. Additionally, there are several other concepts taught to prepare children for math, including spatial relations, temporal relations, difference, and similarity.

All of these concepts are crucial for reinforcing understanding in advanced math materials. In conclusion, the math area plays a significant role in the overall Montessori curriculum, allowing children to transition from tangible to more conceptual ideas. Engaging and enjoyable math activities are essential for stimulating and strengthening the mind.

References

Montessori, Maria. The Absorbent Mind. New York: Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1967.
The Discovery of the Child. New York: Random House, Inc., 1983.