Montessori Thoughts

Montessori Math At Home

I love Montessori math materials.

There’s too much to say and too many images for just one post, so I’ll start by sharing what it can look like to use Montessori math materials in your home with your children.

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.

Shiller Math Supplies

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
  • self-grading

In future posts, I will share some of our favorite materials and directions for making your own bead material.  I have a post about doing math during the summertime here

Any questions so far?

3 thoughts on “Montessori Math At Home

  1. Hi,

    I was wondering if I could get away with just buying the workbooks from Shiller Math. Since I have most of the manipulatives listed in the kits? Do you think that would be workable?


  2. Hello Intisaar, thanks for stopping by – I wondered the same thing when I was getting ready to order. You could certainly just buy the books and substitute your own manipulatives, and the list of what is needed is on the Shiller site. I would recommend gathering everything you need in one place so it’s easy to access when you need it.

    Because I have 4 children using the books, I wanted to be able to access the downloads (so I could print off multiple books.) If you buy just the books, then they do not let you access these downloads. Also, you will want to consider purchasing the CD of songs which is not included with the books. They are not absolutely necessary – but my kids do like them. (We don’t share the same taste in music!) Let me know what you decide!

  3. ShillerMath now has virtual kits that give you pdfs of all of the books (so you can print for multiple kids) and the music files. If you have the materials, the virtual kit gives you everything you need 🙂

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