A Closer Look at Montessori Math

The Montessori math curriculum is quite unlike the traditional approach that each of us experienced.  It is based on developing a strong foundation through concrete experience and manipulation until the time a child reaches the age of abstraction, typically around nine years old. As they engage in the Cosmic Curriculum, children are given a basis for the interconnectedness of all things and encouraged to engage in the wonder and magic of mathematical concepts.  Various activities and materials develop the mathematical mind, preparing the child for their inevitable explosion in to abstraction and connection to the power of relationships. 

The following was written by Lower Elementary Spanish teacher, Diana Haro Reynolds.

Mathematics is the study of quantity, form, and magnitude. We live among it. It is in the position of the sun and in the shell of a snail. We carry math in our pockets, in our devices. It is what makes our communication possible. We touch and live math, whether we know it or not. It is our responsibility as Montessori guides to help the child discover this framework of mathematical order that makes up our world. This rationale proposes several reasons for teaching math in the Montessori classroom. It will explain the journey the child will take from concrete concepts through to abstraction.

Human beings have a tendency for order. Since the beginning of human origin, math has been used to unlock the mysteries of the world. It began with a man’s need to
keep track of his belongings. Then came early techniques that created the experience
with numbers of counting. After a long time, came comprehension, which led to
improvements and shortcuts. Finally, humankind reached abstraction. This same
process is seen in a child. (Doer, 2012)

Mathematical order leads to a mathematical mind. As the mathematical mind unfolds, it develops capacities such as sensorial interaction among objects, observation
of patterns, and awareness of the physical world, mental classification, abstract thinking, and knowledge of the power of relationships. Math supports understanding by encouraging order, concentration, independence, special relations, patterning, one to one correspondence, combination, difference, and similarity. Additional goals supported by math are predictability, exactness or sense of accurateness, concreteness, logic and reasoning, problem solving, and decision making skills, as well as refinement of the mind and thinking. (Stockton-Moreno, 2015)

Why the need to teach math in a specific Montessori way? There are a lot of aspects that prepare the child for math. These include the prepared environment, giving the child the power of choice. Practical life works build concentration and confidence. The child enjoys practicing a task over and over for the pure pleasure of it. The joy is in the process. This mentality is preparing him for the academic areas. Sensitive periods serve as the specific times in a child’s development where part of their needs include an insatiable thirst for specific tasks. There is a sensitive period for concrete tools of precision. We must capitalize on these sensitive periods. (Stockton-Moreno, 2015)

The aims of Montessori math are to make the child aware that math is a part of her life; to build confidence and prepare the child for life. Confidence comes from the sequential growth in which the materials are presented. It starts with the importance of the Three Period Lesson. The first period being the presentation of the concept. The
second period is where the child practices and shows that which has been presented. In math, this second period is much longer than in other areas of study. This is the time in which the child is practicing, exploring and making discoveries, day in and day out, about the concept presented. The third period is that in which the child shows understanding of the concept through teacher observation or helping someone else.

The main goal of Montessori math is to move the child from concrete to abstraction and helping him form a mathematical mind. In the book, A Way of Learning, Ann Burke Nerbert explains that “the mathematical mind derives from experience” (Stockton-Moreno, 2015). We must not rob the child from forming her mathematical mind. She must have ample time to experience the joy of working with the materials and for understanding and internalizing the processes and concepts. The materials are
multimodal in that they appeal to multiple senses. This aids in the "permanent wiring of the brain that will be available as your child gets older and uses her brain for analytical thinking and problem-solving" (Duffy, 2008). Knowing is not understanding. Montessori math provides the path toward understanding.

According to Michael Doer, the passage towards abstraction is done in four stages. The first is the Concrete stage. This is where the child works purely with the material. No works is shown on paper until the child is nearing the end of this stage. The second stage is Concrete Materials lead to Symbols. This is when the child works with
the materials and records the process in writing. This is the longest stage and requires
that the focus be on the process, not the end result. This is the time in which the child is “internalizing the algorithm” (Doer, 2012). Towards the end of this stage the child may begin to work with charts rather than manipulatives. The third stage is often overlooked perhaps because it is the shortest. This is the stage when Symbols connect to Concrete Material. Essentially it is the reversal of stage two. The child does the work on paper then uses the materials to check their answer. The Symbolic stage is the fourth and final stage. This is where the emphasis is on showing the written work. (Doer, 2012)

Doer also emphasizes mental calculations and mental carrying as the two key elements in reaching abstraction. Mental calculation or memorization requires that the
child know math facts with accuracy and speed. The child should take no longer than
three second to recall a fact, otherwise, memorization has not been reached and the
child is calculating. Accuracy should be no less than 98%. It should be recall only. The
second key, mental carrying, requires that the child be able to keep track of the carrying without making a mark on paper. Having the child work on other forms of memorization, such as poems or definitions, will greatly help achieve this goal.

Math is part of our society. We need it in order to function. But there is also a math phobia. Math in Montessori makes it more than accessible, it makes it real. Whenever possible, real life problems should be presented to the child so as to give her
the context for these new skills. Among with word problems, research in the area of
math is a great way to expose the child to the practicality of math. We must cultivate a love and understanding of mathematics in our children by proving the keys and allowing them to make their own discoveries.

Diana Haro Reynolds - Lower Elementary Teacher/Intern


Doer, M. (2012). Numbers: Montessori arithmetic for lower elementary.

Duffy, M. (2008). Math works: Montessori math and the developing brain. Hollidaysburg,

PA: Parent Child Press.

Stockton-Moreno, L. (2015). MONT. 633*01, week 1 notes [PowerPoint slides].
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Montessori, Why Not?

I choose a Montessori school for my son almost as an act of faith. At that time my knowledge of the method was null, besides having heard of small chairs and colored beads. But seeing my son happy day after day encouraged me to study and deepen the Montessori’s ideas. What I had discovered astonished me as a father and as a scientist. As a father, I found how children are really respected and prepared for the future. As a scientist, I found solid scientific foundations for everything Maria Montessori proposed.
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Parent Education Night

Sign-up outside of your student's classroom.

Childcare will be provided, however, you must sign up in advance.

This is a really great night full of insight regarding the education of your child in relation to Montessori Philosophy. Don't miss out!

(Your attendance can go toward Parent Volunteer Hours).

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Silent Journey & Discovery 2015 - With Thanks

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Discipline as Guidance by P. Donohue Shortridge

Your child wants to do what is right, even at the youngest age.  First of all, she wants to because she loves you and wants to be just like you.  She also has a powerful inner drive to adapt to the world around her, the world of your home, and to do so she needs to know what the rules for life are.  She looks to you to show her. 

As parents, if you can keep that in mind, you can create an approach to discipline that is positive, less stressful on everyone and it will assist your child in developing into a competent, civilized, compassionate and joyful person.

So, what are some strategies that you might employ?

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Silent Journey and Discovery 2015



The Silent Journey and Discovery is coming up on February 7th from 9:00am - 1:00pm.
Sign up in the office, space is limited. Attendance is free of charge, brunch will be served & child care will be provided to those who sign up in advance.

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Help me do it myself! The drive for independence.


The biggest challenge parents face is their children’s drive for independence. A toddler or a preschooler’s drive for independence is even fiercer than a teenager’s. While a teenager may be looking to undo parental control your preschooler is looking to share control. They are trying to become part of your world by taking responsibility for their own actions.

This drive for independence is slow and messy. Learning to walk – the first great independence is full of falls and scares (more for Mom than for baby). And it is a slow and unsteady success. Even when they accomplish vertical independence their rate of locomotion impels us to pick them up and carry them if we want to get anywhere now.

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What Every Child Needs!

What is it that every child needs that parents don’t seem to have? (Life time passes to

Disney World and unlimited shoe budgets don’t count!) You can fill in your own blanks.

It is something that a Montessori school can help offer. Of course a good education

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Home – The Montessori Frontier

There are many parts to a Montessori education. There certainly is the beautiful materials that add so much to the enjoyment of learning. There is the educational philosophy that goes along with the materials. There is also the part that looks at your child’s gifts and abilities but the most crucial part of  a Montessori education is the part that nurtures and helps transform your child into a successful adult. Ultimately, Montessori is a philosophy of life, of a way to approach the challenges and blessings.

If you love what Montessori does for your child at school begin to implement at home those actions that will continue the transformation. We are not talking about red rods, alphabets or math but about the core value that makes Montessori dynamic and transformational. It is all about making wise choices.

It is a simple formula – learn to make wise choices – but it is a complex process made up of multiple simple actions that combined together create this outstanding outcome for your child. Montessori succeeds because it gives children the opportunity to make choices (and deal with the consequences). If you have made a bad choice, to be able to make another choice until you come to a positive outcome.

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Upcoming Parent Education Night

Parent Education Night is coming up next Thursday, October 2nd from 6:30-8:00pm.  Toddler, Early Childhood and Elementary parents are invited.  Child care is provided, free of charge, but must be signed up for in advance in the office.
Scroll down for more information about each programs presentation details for the evening.
This is a great way to earn Parent Participation Hours AND stay in touch with your child's Montessori experience!
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Creativity in Montessori

Montessori parents have often voiced concerns about creativity in a Montessori classroom. They just don’t see it. The concern is very similar to the fact that they also see few “academic” papers coming home. They don’t receive many brightly painted pictures to adorn their refrigerators. And so naturally wonder if a Montessori classroom is giving their child an opportunity to express their creative side.
As concrete and hands on as a Montessori classroom and a Montessori learning experience are it requires a good measure of faith to await the outcome of a Montessori experience. Every Montessori teacher (and parents too) for the last one hundred years have often held their breath waiting to see the fulfillment of this amazing process. And then they exhale with great relief and satisfaction. After a while you no longer hold your breath because you know it is going to work – and even better than you imagined – because you see your children learning and growing.

So how does this apply to creativity which seems to be in short supply as far as “art work” is concerned? The creative experience in Montessori is an internal experience. The great creativity is focused on the child creating their own personality. They are forging who they are to become by internalizing all of the experiences of both home and family with their experiences of discovery and exploration in the classroom, mixing these with the intangible aspects of their own DNA, their talents and gifts, inclinations and proclivities. They are taking in these seemingly random elements and creating the uniqueness of who they are.

Their great creative work is themselves.

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Learning the Language of Life

Montessori Children Handle Big Words and Big Ideas


As a parent I was surprised about the words my children knew and used correctly (no, not the bad ones.) We’ve experienced them going from crying to making sounds, from sounds to their first words (mama, dada), from words to phrases (me go) to sentences – “I want candy.” It seems like a long (and sometimes frustrating) process for both children and adults to begin to communicate. We can’t wait for them to start talking and then ironically, we spend a lot of time telling them to be quiet.

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What’s the Big Deal about Table Washing?

What’s the Big Deal about Table Washing?

Edward Fidellow

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Happy Birthday Maria Montessori!

b2ap3_thumbnail_thumb_scaled.mariamontessori.pngMaria Montessori - Her Life & Legacy

As we are so deeply indebted to the great work and legacy of Maria Montessori, and in light of her birthday on August 31st, we would like to honor Dr. Montessori by telling her story. Born in a small town of Italy to parents, Renilde Stoppani and Allessandro, Maria forged her own educational path, even in childhood. Throughout her youth, she acquired a very ambitious taste for science and mathematics, which was extraordinary for a girl during the time. After attending a tech school, Maria Montessori decided to study medicine. Throughout an intricate and complicated series of events (including a letter of recommendation for college acceptance by the Catholic Pope himself), Maria went on to Medical School to become the very first female Doctor in Italy.

During Maria’s residency, she spent time working with children in a psychiatric hospital. She had not been working there long, when a nurse who was watching the children in the ward said to her: ‘Look, I can’t believe that they are picking crumbs up off the floor to eat! How horrible.’ Maria said to the nurse: ‘They aren’t eating the crumbs, they are studying them.’ In a bare, sterile psychiatric hospital, where the walls were white and there was not a single toy or object for a child to engage with, Maria Montessori discovered her first realized observation: the necessity of environment.

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Why is Grace and Courtesy a big deal in Montessori?

As you may already know from your communications with your child's teachers, MCS classrooms begin the year with a heavy emphasis on our Grace and Courtesy curriculum.  The article below, written by Edward Fidellow, will help you understand the benefits of a Grace and Courtesy curriculum and might offer some ideas how to reinforce the lessons at home!

Happy Reading!


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MCS Prepares for the New School Year

Toddlers are so excited to be setting up their classrooms and adding new works to the shelves. Ms. Kellie and Ms. Jennifer research new projects. 
Aspens class is ready to go! Ms. Ruby poses for a picture between running copies of some work material.
Magnolias are making headway! They are so excited to have Ms. Ana Maria joining their teaching team.
Ms. Evi plugs away with lesson plans while the classroom is looking beautiful!
Ms. Kay is checking to ensure everything is in order. Frank the fish is so happy with new water!
Lower Elementary (1st grade - 3rd grade) has a lot going on-- Ms. Sophie, new to the Lower Elementary Oquirrh class is hard at work making materials while Ms. Diana is organizing new Spanish lessons.
Upper Elementary's (4th grade - 6th grade) teachers, Laura and Margaret, hard at work exploring various props and costumes. 
Joshi, our Middle School teacher, is in and out ensuring materials are in order. Ms. Donda, researching wildlife habitat and preparing new lessons.
Montessori Community School is bustling on the inside. New works are arriving, being created, and placed into the classrooms. Teachers are busy creating gorgeous spaces in their classrooms for their students to enjoy and feel comfortable in spending time. The spaces are being designed and set up conducive to a Montessori learning environment. 
We are so excited for this new school year to start. We can't wait to see all of our students and families at the various back to school nights coming up.
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Tips for a New Montessori Parent

A happy welcome to the new families entering Montessori Community School.  Parents, you will soon discover that being a part of a Montessori community is encompassing and the efforts you make towards supporting the Montessori approach will determine the success your child has in this environment. Below is an article by Edward Fidellow which will give you several tips to embracing your new role as a "Montessori Parent."

And so begins your journey......

Becoming a Montessori Parent by Edward Fidellow

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Lunchtime for Toddlers

Our toddlers love lunchtime! They are always curious to see what each friend brings. 
They are responsible for getting their lunch out of their cubby and preparing their food (with assistance from teachers when needed). 
When lunch is finished, our toddlers are able to pack up their lunchbox, clean up their eating space, and return their lunchbox to their cubby. What darling, responsible little ones we have here at MCS! 
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Monthly Energy Savings

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MCS Parent Testimonial


When asked "In what ways has your child thrived in the MCS environment?" this was one Montessori Community School parent's response:

Every one of my children is different. Because Montessori adapts to the individual needs of every child, the Montessori Community School has been the right place for each of them.

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