Materials in math are colorful, bright. In my classroom, children are drawn to the golden beads especially the one thousand cube, the red and blue rods, the bead cabinets. The smooth texture of the golden, shiny beads are so inviting to children. In my classroom, we often change objects and counters to reflect the theme or seasons throughout the year. For example, during winter we use small snowflakes as counters. We have also used pumpkins during the fall season. We have used shamrocks in the spring.
Math materials use concrete objects to teach abstract ideas like counting. The concrete is the number or quantity. And, the abstract is the numeral or the symbol. During the presentation of the spindle boxes you first say “this says 1” and then pick up one spindle and say “this is one.” The relationship from abstract to concrete is always reinforced.
Many of the math materials teach different skills at the same time. For example, activities like the long and short chain teach addition and multiplication at the same time.
Math materials teach children to work independently and thus build confidence. Many math problems have only solution and that is the control of error.
Children are born with a mathematical mind, it is our job to stimulate it. They collect, sort, count and put things in order. They classify, comparing sizes while carrying heavy objects, and they’ll know this one is light or this one is heavy. Maria Montessori said that a mathematical mind was “a sort of mind which is built up with exactity. The mathematical mind is active from the first, becomes apparent not only from the attraction that exactitude exerts on every action the child performs, but we see it also in the fact that the little child’s need for order is one of the most powerful incentives to dominate his early life” (Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, pp. 189,190). The mathematical mind tends to estimate, needs to quantify, to see identity, similarity, difference, and patterns, to make order and sequence and to control error.
Dr. Montessori believed that children from birth through 6 years have an absorbent mind. During this period children have a special sensitivity for gathering information. “There is in a child a special kind of sensitivity which leads him to absorb everything about him, and it is this work of observing and absorbing that alone enables him to adapt himself to life” (Montessori, The Absorbent Mind p. 62). Children have a great ability to absorb and assimilate from the world around them. Dr. Montessori also discovered that children pass though critical periods where they are able to incorporate a particular ability easily and once that “window of opportunity” passes, it becomes harder to acquire that skill. Dr. Montessori called them sensitive periods of development. She believed that these sensitive periods are critical to the child's self development. There is a sensitive period for order, movement, language, beauty and detail. The math area calls to all of their sensitive periods. In the math area, order on the shelf is important. The order of presentation of activities given is important. The sensitive period for movement is addressed in many...