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October 23, 2018

Supporting Montessori Math Learning at Home

One of my favorite things about the Montessori method of education is the math materials. The Montessori mathematics curriculum is pure genius. It gives children concrete experiences with math concepts in a way that is fun and interactive. As they play/work they are given a concrete foundation that I so wish I had. Slowly, the children move toward abstraction where math is done more and more without concrete materials. And concepts they "played" with at 3 and 4 are suddenly second nature, and tied to something bigger and more complex. In elementary, they use many of these materials again but in different ways to deepen their understanding of mathematical concepts. 

Concrete ideas for supporting math learning at home for toddlers, preschool and elementary

Now, I'm talking about the math that is done at school, so what about home? How do you support Montessori math learning at home? For me, the answer here depends on my child's age and experience. 

Augustus (22-months)

Gus does not attend a Montessori program of any kind outside of our home. Nor do we do ANY formal math work at this age. NONE. I don't feel like it is appropriate or necessary. Dr. Montessori identified that the sensitive period for mathematics begins around 4-years-old. Before that, children need to develop their hands, their concentration, make sensorial impressions of the world around them. So, I don't introduce abstract numbers or math concepts at this point. 

But, that's not to say we aren't laying a foundation. We count concretely. "I need 4 carrots for dinner, let's get 4 carrots!! There!" Stuff like that. We did this with Nora too and I was amazed how early she was able to look at something and understand quantity, because it was real, and concrete. Other mathematical concepts like color, pattern, shapes, and size are also explored in the 0-3 age range, but again concretely through play/work. 

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Nora (4-years-old, Children's House) 

Nora attends a local Children's House, also called Primary, 3-6-year-old Montessori program. Her guide observes her readiness and chooses appropriate math work based on those observations. It's my job to support that work here at home. And for me, that doesn't mean duplicating it here at home. We don't have any Montessori math materials out for her here. 

Instead, I have provided a few things for her that help to support where she is at school. She is working on writing numbers, for example. So, we can provide for that with some tracing work. It doesn't look the same as it does at school, with sandpaper numerals. 

She is also working on connecting the concrete (actual number of things) to the abstract (the numeric symbol). At school this is done a variety of ways with different work including cards and counters, number rods and cards, the spindle box, and beads. At home, a simple DIY with rocks also helps to connect counting and the numbers. Or a bead work with pre-drilled spaces. This provides a bit more control of error than some of the work, which I like for here at home. 

Basically, I try to provide concrete ways for her to explore the math concepts she is learning without just having the Montessori material here at home. Not a ton of it, just enough that if she wants to, she can. We also continue that concrete learning of math in everyday ways. There is so much math in practical life - fractions, adding, subtracting, multiplying. It's all there, and we just keep doing it and she absorbs it with that magical absorbent mind. 

So, I think the best thing to do for your own child is to ask your child's guide where they are at. Get a sense of what interests them. And think creatively and concretely about how you can bring exploration of those interests into your home. 

Henry (7-years-old, Lower Elementary)

Henry is technically in 2nd grade, which is year 2 of Lower Elementary. His classroom is for 6 to 9-year-olds or 1st to 3rd grade. His work is far more abstract than Nora's but still includes lots of hands-on and concrete exploration.  And, honestly, a lot of the same materials you find in Henry's classroom can also be found in Nora's. It's used differently or children are given more time to explore with it. But, Henry has lost the absorbent mind, in elementary, the work chosen is different. It has to be more intentional and the approach taken to spark a child's interest. 

At home, we do have a few Montessori materials here for Henry. In particular, we have a box of beads and the stamp game. This isn't required at all. But, I do find it helpful to have a few things to support him here at home. Elementary kids start to have big and deep questions, and I like that he has the ability to use some of these tools to solve problems should he need to. 

While he does not have homework in the assigned sense, there is some expectation that learning will occur at home. His school has provided laminated finger charts for the children to have at home. These help children learn their math facts which become essential as they move toward abstraction. Now we aren't still here doing drills, but learning through play. We have made up a variety of games using math dice to practice facts. We make it fun, connecting, and social. All of the things that speak directly to elementary kids. This can be done with playing cards, actual math games (like this one), or with dice. 

I think the key here is to make it fun and social. Try not to force it but make it part of your rhythm to practice the skills in some way. Again, talking to your child's guide is a great place to start to see where child is at and what his/her needs are. 

How do you support math learning at home? 

Concrete ideas for supporting math learning at home for toddlers, preschool and elementary

12 Months of Montessori

This post is brought to you as part of the 12 Months of Montessori series. Our theme this month is Math! Don't miss these great Montessori and Montessori inspired posts about math! 


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Unknown said…
Do you have any links to ideas on the math dice games for a more advanced math mind? My 7yo is really into adding and subtracting two digit numbers!
Unknown said…
Thank you this is super helpful!