I love Montessori math materials.
Math processes are abstract. Pi times radius squared. Median, mode, and range. At what age can a child learn these things? And how do you teach them?
Montessori math is started early, by age 3, and is manipulative-based. (“Mani” means “hand”. The hands are touching and moving objects, not looking at something written on paper.) Counting, adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, fractions, telling time, learning 2 and 3-plane geometric shapes – it’s all done, at the child’s own pace, in the 3-6 classroom. If a solid foundation can be made with manipulatives, then all of the higher level, abstract math concepts will be more quickly and better understood. More importantly, the wonder of math – instead of the dread – can be fostered in the children.
A Montessori math album will explain, in detail, the order and process of presenting the math materials. (A free, online album is available from InfoMontessori.) In addition to a math album, we are using the books of the Shiller math program. Shiller math uses Montessori ideas (and some materials) in a way that takes all the “work” out of figuring out what to present, when, and how. It’s not “perfectly Montessori,” but comprehensive and so, so easy to use. Before we started using Shiller, I had trouble keeping up with the work my children were ready for and wanted. The materials were there, and I knew well how to use them, but with children at 4 different hungry ages, I would get overwhelmed. Shiller has saved my sanity and given us a fantastic organization to our learning. Each child has a book at his own level and works at his own pace.
Shiller math kits come with manipulatives, but we also own many of the basic Montessori math materials. These were purchased from Alison’s Montessori, and are better quality than the Shiller materials. Everything needed is available on shelves in a room of our house to which children younger than age 3 do not have access. The manipulatives include small parts which could be choked on, plus the toddlers find these materials fascinating and will want to touch them all and then dump them on the floor. And then step on them. And throw them. And chew on them. (Ask me how I know.)
There is another Montessori-inspired math program for homeschoolers, called RightStart math. I know some families who have used it and been very pleased. I think it’s a program to consider if your oldest child is still quite young, because the way they introduce beginning concepts may be confusing for an older child, but that was just my impression. I have other homeschooling friends who like the program MathUSee. I’m sure that all 3 of these programs are great – if they are used consistently.
Montessori keys to remember:
- invite the child when she is in a receptive mode
- use short lessons with few words
- keep the materials in the same place
- proceed at the child’s pace
- don’t interrupt the child who is working
- do not require sitting at a desk
- learning comes through the movement of the hands
Any questions so far?