There was a recent discussion of Montessori materials on a Facebook page, and we (Montessori teachers) were VERY offended that someone posted a picture of this material presented incorrectly. 🙂
The original poster probably ran away, screaming, but it shows how passionate we are about the materials, how much we love them, and how much thought we, and the teachers before us, all the way back to Montessori’s first school in 1907, put into how to present hard, abstract lessons to children.
In this material, for example, called “numbers and counters”, the counters are all in one color, so that the idea of quantity, and not color, is what is clear to the child. They are also kind of boring (not little teddy bears, for example), so that the abstract idea is the most clear. (We can count teddy bears, but we will probably get distracted by how cute they are and start to play “teddy bear city”, which is a great game, but not this one.)
This is a great lesson in one to one correspondence, which is hard for young children, who are presented numbers as a series of sounds: “one, two, three, seventeen, twenty, one hundred!” One to one correspondence means that there is one thing for each number counted, and requires slowing down to realize this. When you have to pick up one counter for each number, that slows you down. Usually the beginning presentations of this work have the teacher counting, one at a time, into the child’s hand, and then the child counting into the teacher’s hand, then counting again as they lay out the counters. If the child cannot “read” the numbers yet, the teacher lays the numbers out in order, reading them.
The teacher sets them up as shown, and, eventually, the child notices that one is “left over” at the bottom, with some of the numbers. This may be at four or five. The child has “discovered” odd numbers, and this discovery has more value than our teaching the concept.
Later, this work can be done with a friend, on two rugs, with the numbers mixed up, as a game, or with a younger child.
This is one of the beginning number presentations in a math curriculum which is contained in a book (we call them albums) which is 3-4 inches thick with lessons!
We love the math materials very much, and the children do, too!