Travelling Light

From a Montessori teacher/mom in India: My Learning as a Mother, Teacher and School Administrator

Travelling Light

“The Tile Game is a beautiful and popular material in the Elementary class, lending itself to intricate tessellations, mosaics, calculations of area and all else that the imaginative mind of the child dictates.

I was reluctant to present Abhimanyu with the Tile Game. The domineering teacher in me reasoned that he ought to pay for his indolence. I slyly omitted him from the list of children invited for the lesson. But he was there, totally absorbed.

Abhimanyu travels light and sly omissions don’t weigh him down.

The next day I saw him make an exquisite pattern with the tile game.

I wish I could have simply stood back and admired it, but the stubborn teacher in me didn’t give up. Dripping with mockery I challenged him to find the area of the “beautiful pattern.” I couldn’t wait to see his regret and guilt, his surrender to rigour.

I expected him to –
– Count the number of triangles, parallelograms, trapeziums and hexagons
Triangles = 66
Parallelograms = 36
Trapeziums = 24
Hexagons = 13

– Find the area of each of those shapes applying the formula
Triangle – ½ x 2.5 x 2 = 2.5 sq cm
Parallelograms = 2.5 x 2 = 5 sq cm
Trapeziums = ½ x (2.5 + 5) x 2 = 7.5 sq cm
Hexagons = ½ x 15 x 2 = 15 sq cm

– Multiply it by their number
Area of triangles – 2.5 x 66 = 165 sq cm
Area of Parallelograms = 5 x 36 = 180 sq cm
Area of Trapeziums = 7.5 x 24 = 180 sq cm
Area of Hexagons = 15 x 13 = 195 sq cm

– Sum it all up together.
Total area = 165 + 180 + 180 + 195 = 720 sq cm

And he didn’t know how. Ha!

In less than ten minutes Abhimanyu had the area of his beautiful pattern. He had converted his parallelograms, trapeziums and hexagons into triangles.
66 + 72 + 72 + 78 = 288 triangles

All triangles became rectangles and the rectangle was a familiar friend!
½ x 2.5 x 2 = 2.5 x 288 = 720 sq cm
Abhimanyu travelled light and quick.

I doubly suffered because I was his teacher and his mother too. I moved around arduously with tons of load on my body and soul and appreciated “hard work.”

One Sunday afternoon he was out with the wind in his unkempt hair and shabby clothes and often unbrushed teeth. He came in with a big smile, hugged me saying, “Thanks Ma, for loving me only so much.” Gave me a little kiss and was off.

Abhimanyu truly travels light!”

The Wonderful Montessori Math Materials!


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 themnumbers and counters, 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!