The magic of numbers

A young child is bombarded by many, many things to learn.  Thankfully they are born with the gift of an “absorbent mind”.  Maria Montessori, (founder of the Montessori Method), uses this term consistently in her observations of children.  She uncovered the fact that a childs’ brain is like a sponge.

We have all seen this in action, when we are amazed at what they remember and know.  Yes, this come out when you refer to a sweater as a sweatshirt, or a sandal as a shoe.  All of a sudden this small child is all-knowing!

Sandpaper letters

In our classroom we use this magical power to our advantage.  We present concepts with real hands on materials that the child can feel, see and hear.  A staple of any Montessori classroom is sandpaper letters and numbers.

The concept is simple: a board with one letter cut out in sandpaper.  26 boards (child-sized) where we can teach one sound at a time.  Soon the child knows all the sounds and can start to read and write…. Yes, writing actually comes FIRST.


The same is true for the numerals.  Numbers 0-9 are presented this way, with many other materials at our disposal to expose the child to numbers as a whole (number rods) or numbers as a group (spindle boxes).  We even give the child experience with odd and even (cards and counters).

sandpaper numbers

numbers with counters

What I love about a child learning letters or numbers is that once they start they connect this to everything.  Counting whatever they can get their hands on, looking for signs with letters or numbers.

We can’t expect them to get all this information right from the start, so there is a long period of time where children will call letters numbers and numbers letters.  They won’t remember all the sounds or numerals for a while.  But when it finally does “click” they HAVE it…….in such a natural way, Montessori method at its finest!