The Montessori math materials are truly amazing. It is not unusual for a child to enter a classroom at 2.9 years old knowing how to count to ten, and leave three years later able to multiply and divide numbers in the thousands. This happens because the materials take the mystery out of numbers/symbols by making them tangible.
Experiential materials aid the fullest understanding of concepts. Combining the symbolic with the concrete unites the two halves of brain function, the surest means of helping children avoid "math phobia". The Montessori math materials include red and blue number rods and spindle boxes for counting, sandpaper numbers, colored glass bead bars, bead bar chains representing the squares and cubes of 1-10, tens and teen boards, hierarchical decimal materials leading to operations with numbers up to the thousands place, fraction metal insets, and many more activities to clarify the association of numbers and quantities and the four basic mathematical operations.
The beautiful geometry cabinet contains plane figures in wooden insets. Children trace the figures while learning their names (rectangle, trapezoid, rhombus, etc.) and then draw them on paper. Triangle boxes allow children to explore how the combinations of triangles form other figures (hexagon, rectangle, rhombus, etc.). The blue geometric solids introduce sphere, ovoid, triangular and rectangular pyramids, and other three-dimensional objects. Other activities lead to differentiation and understanding of concepts like horizontal, vertical, parallel, convergent and divergent lines. Children may even learn to identify types of triangles by their angles: right angle, obtuse angle, acute angle, and by their sides: equilateral, isosceles, and scalene.
Human beings are born with a mathematical mind. The problem is, in many cases, if we can’t put something into our hands, then we won’t be able to put it into our minds in any kind of tangible way. The beauty of Montessori math is that materialized representations for mathematical symbols (numbers and operational signs) help children internalize concepts and truly understand all that the symbol represents. Like all Montessori works, the materials in math provide a link between abstractions and the intellect.
“Children display a universal love of mathematics, which is par excellence the science of precision, order, and intelligence.”