What I thought about learning Math
I had the opportunity to teach my nephew who was third grade at that time, multiplication. He has a test the next day and is quite anxious about it. I hear him rambling with some math facts. When asked why he is memorizing multiplication, he shrugged and said, “We are supposed to.” That’s how it has been for me. As far as I can recall, Math is the uninteresting boring subject that makes me anxious with all its formulas.
How does a child learn Math in a Montessori classroom?
Learning math operations in a Montessori classroom doesn’t come from their ability to memorize, that 4+4 = 8 but about seeing the connection that 4+4 =8 and 4×2 is also equal to 8. The first one could be from retentive memory but the latter is through abstraction.
Abstraction is considered as higher learning in Math and it is should be ultimate goal for any teacher. And to get to that point, it is necessary that child has been prepared from what seems to be unrelated lessons where math is concerned, PRACTICAL LIFE and SENSORIAL.
How can practical life and sensorial prepare a child for Math?
To further illustrate why practical life and sensorial prepare a child for higher thinking, let’s have this two materials as examples, buttoning frame for Practical Life and knotless cylinders for Sensorial
Practical life involves continuous repetitive pattern and motion. What seems to be insignificant like inserting a button in a buttonhole requires a lot of focus and concentration. What does that got to do with math? Well, both practical life and math has an end in mind, And to get to a desired end or result, the child has to follow a continuous and repetitive patterns that will require focus and concentration.
Now, lets talk about the knobless cylinders, a material in Sensorial area. A child who works in the Sensorial area must see the similarities and differences in the materials in order that he can group them in sets. Such grouping and classifying is just as important in Math in order for a child to perform operations. In addition, the visual harmony of seeing the gradation of size prepares the child to see likeness and differences, just like equal and not equal in Math.
To summarize, the exercises in Practical Life and Sensorial life lays the foundations for higher learning like Math because of the following:
- predictable pattern
- logical order
- sense of sequence
- attention to detail
- one to one correspondence
- exploring of spatial relationships
- exploring similarities and difference through grading
What is in the Math Curriculum ? : An Overview
In a Montessori classroom, children learn math kinesthetically. All presentations have concrete materials that the child can hold, touch or count.
At the age of 3, the teacher introduces practical life and sensorial materials to the child. As the child show signs of readiness then the following Math concepts are introduced consequentially. Here’s an infographic of an overview of the Mathematics curriculum in a Montessori 3-6 classroom.
- Numeration covers cards and counters, spindle boxes. Chiild learns to quantify numbers in units, tens, hundreds and thousands
- Linear uses the short and long chains to see the sequence in units, tens, and hundred
- Operations covers static and dynamic addition from one to thousands place, subtraction, multiplication and division
In conclusion, Math in a Montessori 3-6 classroom is a sensorial experience in itself. The math materials are held, touched, counted and represented my numbers. The goal is not memorizing number facts to arrive at a sum, total or difference.
This system in which a child is constantly moving objects with his hands and actively exercising his senses, also takes into account a child’s special aptitude for mathematics. When they leave the material, the children very easily reach the point where they wish to write out the operation. They can thus carryout an abstract mental operation and acquire a kind of natural and spontaneous inclination for mental calculations.Maria Montessori