The Montessori approach to education views children as natural learners who are eager to acquire new knowledge from an early age and who benefit from a supportive learning environment. Numbers have a very practical application in a young child’s life, so many Montessori math materials focus on helping children make the mental leap from the world around them to the realm of the abstract.
Montessori Math Beads
Maria Montessori, the Italian physician who first formulated the educational philosophy that bears her name, theorized that children were developmentally ready to start thinking of math in abstract terms around the age of four. Children do need learning materials, however, that will facilitate the leap from concrete reality to abstract thought. One of the these learning materials Maria Montessori developed are the Knobbed Cylinders.
The Knobbed Cylinders are designed to help young learners learn how to discriminate between math-based concepts like width, height, weight and size. At first, children discriminate between dimensions visually, but as they grow more adept with the cylinders, they begin to differentiate between them on the basis of touch.
Other Basic Montessori Mathematics Materials
Many mathematically based concepts that seem intuitive to adults are actually learned concepts. Montessori mathematics materials build upon other to enhance children’s understanding of these concepts and to increase their confidence in making the required distinctions.
• Red Rods: Red Rods are designed to refine children’s visual understanding of length. Working with Red Rods enables children to discriminate between short and long.
• Number Rods: Number Rods look a lot like Red Rods except that they have alternating blue and red segments. They provide an introduction to counting because children build with the Number Rods just as they did with the Red Rods, but counting is associated with the number of different colored sections on the Number Rods.
• Golden Beads: Golden Beads, which are sometimes called Montessori Math Beads, were designed to provide children with an introduction to the decimal system. By moving beads to different mats and boxes, children begin to grasp unit categories such as tens, hundreds and thousands, and to learn how those categories relate to one another.
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