Figuring it out.

It has always surprised me that “learning materials” for young children can be very confusing.  For example, we find materials that try to “teach” shapes, but each shape is a different size and color.  Our children can easily be confused by WHAT they should be learning. I saw a puzzle the other day that had an array of shapes, each a different color and size, with capital letters on them (representing the color).  A large yellow triangle with a Y on it?  A small blue square with a B?  Am I learning shapes, colors, letters, or dimension? What exactly is the information being presented?

In a Montessori classroom a carefully devised set of materials have been made that isolate only ONE characteristic.  For example, when we present shapes to children we use the geometry cabinet (a set of 6 drawers all the same size with blue cut out shapes)  Each one identical in dimension and color.  The  ONLY information given is that of shape.

Geometry cabinet polygon drawer

We use a material called color tablets to show children colors.  Montessori believed that children need a clear picture of each concept being experienced, so that they can accurately “file” it away in their brain.  The children are given a box with two of each color tablet, they are shown to match the colors, name them, and even play games where they find object from around the room of each color.  This allows the child to experience that colors are not only in the box but also all around us in the world.

Color box 2


The stair below lets the child experience change in dimension, yes, only ONE change.  To top it all these materials are actually mathematically precise (the change in dimension is in uniform gradation with all pieces).  Many materials are in sets of 10, to prepare even the youngest child for our base 10 mathematical system.

Dr. Maria Montessori knew what she was doing!  After all, these materials were all tested by the children and she only kept the activities they used were drawn to (in some cases the children even chose the perfect color!)  Check out the PINK tower sometime.