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].

"Go Outside and Play"

"Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors."
—American Medical Association, 2005


Spring has arrived! I can't help but be excited by the thought of sunshine, hikes, water and fresh air! This article written by Jane M. Jacobs, M.A., a Montessori Educational Consultant at Montessori Services spoke to me in considering how outdoor time is such a powerful tool for our children. In the article, Jane offers a variety of ideas for making the best of your outside time with your little one. 

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Silent Journey & Discovery 2015 - With Thanks

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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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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!

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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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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Nature Education

Montessori Community School offers a unique outdoor education program at each level.  We value the opportunity for children to become stewards over the earth and explore their natural environment. You can read more about our Outdoor Classroom and Great Outdoors programs here.

Montessori Early Childhood Programs Offer Exceptional Opportunities

The most beautiful thing about this video is that while Jackson might be an exceptional child, his documented experience (shown below) is not the exception....it is a true example of what happens in a Montessori Early Childhood classroom!  As you watch, take note of his independence and self-direction. Pay close attention to his interaction with teachers and peers and opportunities for collaboration balanced with independent work time (and don't forget about his community contributions.)  Watch him choose a variety of activities in a variety of areas of the classroom and notice how he cleans up every piece of material before choosing a new activity!  
These are all life skills that a child in an Early Childhood Montessori Classroom has the opportunity to experience simply by being in a prepared environment with a loving guide.  
MCS is still accepting applications for the 2014 - 2015 Academic Year. Schedule a tour today! 

Now Enrolling Toddlers 18 months to 3 years. Read Below Why Early Education is so Beneficial!

Toddler students from MCS practice Yoga.
Current research and various studies support Maria Montessori's approach to Early Education. She discovered that children 0-6 years old were in an absorbent mind, where children absorb information from their environment with little to no effort. Montessori wrote and spoke about "Sensitive Periods", which are periods in a person’s development when they are more responsive to certain stimuli and quicker to learn particular skills. She also taught us that when these crucial stages are missed (which she referred to as "dropped stitches", learning becomes a more difficult process.  For example, children who are exposed to a second language in their first six years have an advantage over people who learn a second language later in life, when the sensistive period for language development has passed.  
Simply put, a child’s early years lay the foundation for all that is to come. In recent years, researchers have learned that the human brain develops the vast majority of its neurons, and is at its most receptive to learning, between birth and three years of age. In fact, the intake of new information is critical to the formation of active neural pathways (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). 
MCS Toddlers do scrubbing work. 
The Toddler Montessori environment is carefully designed to meet the children's needs in this critical stage of development.  Exploration of their environment through the five senses coupled with a rich socially prepared environment with children of different ages and abilities allows Toddlers the opportunity to develop the following:
  • meaningful relationships, mutual understanding, and approprite social skills 
  • values and ethics
  • motor skills
  • creativity & imagination
  • self correction and overcoming fear of making mistakes
  • self expression through arts, music, dance, building and exploration of materials
  • ability to process emotions and life events in a safe and loving environment
  • cooperation
  • development of language
  • independence
  • control of body
  • sense of order
Montessori Community School is currently accepting applications for our Toddler program.  Toddler enrollment is limited to the beginning of the academic school year, August, and January.  Contact us for a tour now! 

SUPERWOMAN WAS ALREADY HERE....Is Montessori right for your child? Probably!

In all my years as a Montessorian, I have never met a parent who did not want the absolute best for their child.  Just as adults want to go to work in a place where they feel satisfied doing something they love, many parents are searching for the same educational experience for their children. Most parents are searching for a system that actually works (as in, educates the child) while nurturing the genuine spirit of each child individually!  The great news is...it really does exist! 
The video below will show you how Montessori schools, including Montessori Community School - a private Montessori school in the Salt Lake Valley, gives children the motivation and interest to learn, allows for a productive and meaningful learning experience, and creates a peaceful learning environment.  
If you think the Montessori approach might be right for your child, please contact us for a tour.  We are currently accepting applications for the 2014-2015 Academic Year.
Special Thanks to Daniel C. Petter-Lipstein, creator of "Superwoman Was Already Here."


An Early Child student is read to by a Lower Elementary student.

“If salvation and help are to come, it is from the child, for the child is the constructor of man and so of society. The child is endowed with an inner power which can guide us to a more enlightened future.”

– Maria Montessori

Service-Learning is built into a Montessori Education’s curriculum starting at the toddler age through adolescence. As per the National Service-Learning Partnership, Service-Learning is defined as a teaching method that engages young people in solving problems within their schools and communities as part of their academic studies or other type of intentional learning activity.

Montessori Community School starts this education with a simple question, “How may I help?” This simple question plants a seed within children early on in the toddler years. There, it is nurtured, and cultivated. As the years go by, this seed continues to grow. Soon a sensitivity of self-awareness and self-reflection emerge.  Not only do students begin to recognize and develop their personal talents, abilities, and interests but they are also able use them to meet the needs of others.

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Letter from the Montessori Education Foundation (MEF)

  "I do not believe there is a method better than Montessori for making children sensitive to the beauties of the world and awakening their curiosity regarding the secrets of life."

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Author, Poet, Nobel Laureate, Montessori Student




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Service Learning via a FUN RUN!


Support Montessori Community School's Fun Run Fundraiser, Wednesday, May 7th. 

Proceeds go toward our sponsored girls through the Children of Ethiopia Education Fund, COEEF and our Grandmothers through the Adopt-a-Native-Elder Program. 


"Quote of the Week"

Happy Monday, everyone!  


Montessori and the Myth of Low Student Teacher Ratios

As parents we have to judge what makes a good educational program for our children. We ask our friends, we look at the school – is it clean and orderly and bright? We look at the children – do they seem happy? We observe the teacher - is she engaged and interested in the children? These are things that we can judge. And then we remember that we’ve heard that a low student–teacher ratio is important for a good educational approach and outcome. (It must be true because all of the governmental agencies are always trying to lower the ratios.)


But it is a myth as far as Montessori education is concerned. Traditionally, a low student–teacher ratio is desired if you are trying to make everyone do the same thing at the same time. (It is a lot like herding cats – the less you have, the easier it might be to perform.) Ratios aren’t critical in Montessori for three reasons.

  1. In Montessori education you do not teach classes (numbers) you teach children (individuals.)
  2. The goal in the classroom is not just to teach the material but to facilitate the child’s ability to learn on her own – which in effect makes the learning one on one.
  3. And because of the nature of the classroom where children are encouraged to help each other – the five year olds teach the four year olds and the fours teach the threes – you literally have more teachers than students.

Parents wonder still – “If there were fewer students wouldn’t my child get more attention from the teacher?” Interestingly, it is not just the amount of time your child needs but the amount of focused time (time spent directly on your child’s priorities and needs) that effectively contributes to her learning.

A Montessori teacher can be compared to a juggler who spins plates on a stick. She will begin spinning the first plate, then the second, third and fourth. She might go back and give the first plate a spin before she spins the fifth and sixth. She might then spin the second plate – and that first plate might need another spin before she gets the seventh plate rotating. Likewise, the teacher notes each of her students and what it takes to power up the learning gyroscope in each child – so the child can keep the learning plates spinning on her own. A low ratio is good if you are driving the learning – not as consequential if you are leading it.

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MCS Cultural Fair

Montessori Cultural curriculum includes learning about Geography, Science, Music, Art, and Yoga. Throughout these studies, our students have become familiar with continents, oceans, and countries including but not limited to specific flora, fauna, flags, and folks.  Montessori cultural education helps students to adapt to their own culture, inspires a love of learning, and offers a new perspective of the world. Within this spectrum, our students get the opportunity to do an in depth study of a particular culture, focusing on specific countries of our world and their uniqueness.

Thursday, April 24th our Elementary and Middle School students will be presenting their cultural studies for MCS’s Annual Cultural Fair from 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm in the MCS gymnasium.  Our students’ presentations will remain set up throughout Friday, April 25th until late morning for all those wanting to swing by, view, support, and share in the success and hard work of our students.

In Celebration of Earth Day


MCS would like to wish our community a Happy Earth Day.  What a lovely opportunity to celebrate the beauty of our miraculous earth. Montessori is known as a method that advocates environmental education and invites children to become stewards of the earth.  Maria Montessori herself said that "children are inspired with a feeling for nature" and believed that nature plays a most important role in the development of the whole child. 

Unconstructed play and exploration in nature foster creativity and independence.  Students learn the value in community and their interconnectedness as they begin to recognize and care for living things.  Richard Louv, author of 'Lost Child in the Woods' and proponent of the need for nature in education noted, “multisensory experiences in nature help to build the cognitive constructs necessary for sustained intellectual development.“ At present, electronics have an overwhelming presence in society and in the development of the child.  Research indicates that this presence has the ability to hinder children's overall development. So what do they need to counter all this visual stimulation?  Outdoor experience! Time and effort in nature gives children the opportunity to experiment with cause and effect and avoidance of immediate gratification, which they experience so frequently with electronics. 

One of the most unique principles of Montessori programs is the Cosmic Curriculum, an overall Montessori approach to education that involves helping children develop an awareness that everything in the universe is connected and interdependent and forms a harmonious whole and that they themselves are part of and contribute to that whole. The Cosmic Curriculum lends itself to exploration and appreciation of nature. Environmental education is a curriculum that encourages children to explore the wonders of nature; including botany, zoology, preservation of the earth, and other scientific concepts that are present in Montessori such as the study of the earth, water, weather and the universe as a whole. These subjects come alive with hands-on experience. 

And so, in honor of this world wide celebration, we offer thanks to Maria Montessori and all those who join us in bettering our children's future as we share insights to miracles of the universe through education of the child.  

“When the child goes out, it is the world itself that offers itself to him. Let us take the child out to show him real things instead of making objects which represent ideas and closing them in cupboards.”  Maria Montessori

Read more about our environmental education here.




The Magic of Observation

What has allowed Montessori to stand the test of time?  What has protected the method that first began in 1907?  Many methods of education have been tried and tested for years in the United States but Montessori is one program that has not only stayed around, but is growing and receiving more recognition than ever.  Montessori schools, including those in the public sector, are on the rise in the United States of America.  

Most Montessorians will agree that beneath many layers the most basic element continues to exist.  This simple concept that gives heed to the needs of the child is that of observation. 


"The Montessori Method continues to serve children well because it is based on the scientific observation of individual children....The lessons, the materials, that careful order of presentation, work because, and only because, they respond to the observed needs of the individual child. Montessori requires consistent and objective research into the conditions of each child. Montessorians often seek peace first and precision later.  But it is through the specificity of unbiased observation that our compassion emerges for each child we serve.  It is by understanding the needs of each child, as a unique and concrete individual, that we see his humanity."  
Catherine McTamaney, The Tao of Montessori.   

Montessori teachers are carefully trained in the skill of observation.  Preparation of the environment, lesson plans, and daily scheduling are all reliant on their precise understanding of the needs of the children, which comes through observation.  Through observation they gain the full picture and see any outlying factors that might affect a students learning patterns or behavior. Once a new concept is presented and practiced by a child, the adult is responsible to watch the child and ask "does the child do what they have been taught to do?"  Again, this can apply to their practice of the materials and concepts in the classroom but is also applicable to behavior, social interactions, etc.  Montessori teachers are also taught to think twice before interfering with anything a child is doing.  Is the action purposeful and intentional? Is anyone or anything being harmed?  Is their opportunity for growth?  

In addition to the careful observation of the Montessori teacher, we encourage observation by the child in a Montessori environment.  Through observation, children learn more than one way of doing things.  They also learn the important and essential skill of patience.  Children are encouraged to stop and think.  As they learn to observe, they give themselves time to evaluate and think of outcomes.  Observation is a beautiful skill for our young people as it allows them the ability to see the perspectives of others and the recognition that there can be more than one way.  It supports the idea that we teach children to learn to think and love to learn. 

 "If education is always to be conceived along the same antiquated lines of a mere transmission of knowledge, there is little to be hoped from it in the bettering of man's future."  Maria Montessori


Building Confidence by: Edward Fidellow

One of the great attributes of success is confidence. While success breeds confidence, confidence also breeds success. However, there are no real courses on success, no seven easy steps, no magic potions, so how do we help our children build this important component into their lives? 


The first level of building confidence is the ability to finish a project. In Montessori you introduce activities that are reasonable for the child to achieve. Second, you then give the child the time to achieve. Third, the project has to have value; it has to be worthwhile. (Learning to tie your shoes for a young child meets this need.) For confidence to build the project also has to have an element of real challenge – not one that can be accomplished in a moment or a day – learning to read fills this bill. Real confidence has to take you through all kinds of situations for which you are not prepared – which is pretty much a definition of life.

A Montessori classroom offers a child the ability to work at a problem (and the one that follows that etc) for a long time, while making mistakes (and not being devastated by them) and working your way to a satisfactory conclusion. Confidence just doesn’t come from finishing but by surmounting the problems that prevent you from reaching an easy victory. Confidence comes amidst the obstacles, the problems and the difficulties.

As parents, we don’t want our children to struggle so we often short circuit the confidence process by doing the heavy lifting or rescuing our children. We often don’t hear the child’s inaudible cry, “Help me do it myself.” Dr. Montessori heard it and developed a whole environment to make it possible for them to do it themselves.

Confidence also comes and is aided by people who tell you that you can, instead of telling you that you can’t. The seeds of confidence are tiny and are watered by small words, small deeds and small accomplishments. A Montessori environment opens to your child not only the realm of the possible but the realm of the impossible. When you are three or four years old so many things seem impossible – math, riding a two wheeler, jumping rope. Ironically, as you grow the list of the impossible grows along with you because now there are so many more things you never even know about that seem to go on the impossible list.

This is where real confidence begins its ascent of the mountains of impossibility. Everyday in a Montessori classroom where your child has a plan of activity, works through mistakes, takes one bite at a time of the problems, is being encouraged and works at the challenge again and again is laying the bedrock for a lifetime of confidence.

Confidence is like the ancient story of the shepherd boy David who said, “I killed the bear and the lion, this Goliath (of a problem, a challenge an impossibility) will be no different. Confidence – been there, done that – bring it on!

by: Edward Fidellow