In math, as in every other area, the child moves from the concrete to the abstract. The developing child yearns to organize and classify. Fortunately the whole world obliges with toes and fingers to count, temperatures to read, rain to gauge, and clocks to check. In the Montessori math lessons, the child is presented with quantity, then the symbol (sandpaper numbers) and later the two are combined. Only by internalizing the knowledge concretely are they led to the abstract.
The exercises in Practical Life provide the foundation for all other activities in the Montessori classroom, fulfilling the child's plea, "Help me to do it myself!" Through exercises in daily living (buttoning, tying, pouring, sweeping, opening and closing jars) the child gains confidence and mastery of the environment. These activities contribute to the control and coordination of movement, development of concentration skills, and the self-esteem.
Words are the labels for our experiences. A child who has varied experiences and is given labels for those experiences will develop a well-rounded means of expression. Just as a rich vocabulary is dependent on the child's experiences, the transition to reading and writing is dependent on a strong vocabulary. To be sure the "label" remains associated, games such as, "Bring me the..., " and "Put the ...on the table," are used. Soon the child, "explorer of the world," will be able to express thoughts and understand and interpret the thoughts of others.
Maria Montessori's Casa dei Bambini showed that the forgotten street children in Rome in the early 1900's were capable of learning much more than was thought possible. Their "absorbent minds" were ready for the structured, self-guided learning Montessori came to pioneer. Part of her success with these children came from providing a predictable classroom environment. She saw that they felt secure and independent in the order surrounding them.
Our Montessori curriculum is based on an atmosphere of freedom, responsibility, and respect to explore.
The four major areas in a Montessori environment are PRACTICAL LIFE, SENSORIAL, LANGUAGE, and MATH. ART and MUSIC are an integral part of each of these areas. No area is an isolated entity. Every activity is a direct or indirect preparation for everything else in the environment.
Sensorial awareness (smelling, seeing, feeling, tasting, hearing) and the ordering of that awareness is basic to the "sense of wonder" approach to living. By the careful selection of items of different textures, colors, sizes, and geometric shapes, children discover relationships and exclaim, "This bolt is a hexagon!" "This cloth is rough." "These cymbals are loud!" Sensorial experiences indirectly prepare children for future exploration of language, mathematics and geometry, art, and music.