How Montessori Preschools Use Manipulatives To Teach Math

Montessori preschools use hands-on methods to prepare children to learn about abstract concepts. But how do they do this? One learning toy you may notice in these classrooms is manipulatives. Here are how these objects teach young children about math.

1. By slowly progressing from concrete to abstract ideas

Many math manipulatives in Montessori preschools are designed to teach children about abstract concepts. But young children still have very concrete minds. To guide them in the right direction, the manipulatives go from concrete to abstract ideas slowly. 

For instance, one math manipulative consists of a single bead to represent one's, a row of connected beads to represent 10s, a square of beads to represent 100s, and a cube to represent 1000s. 

From this toy, the child progresses to wooden pieces that have dots to represent the different numbers. Eventually, the child uses wooden tiles with the numbers printed on them. 

The first toy in this progression is concrete. The next one is a little less concrete. The last one is completely abstract. As the child moves between these toys, they develop a deeper understanding of the base 10 system.

2. By allowing children to engage over a long time

Research about the effectiveness of math manipulatives says that children need to use them for a long time. They aren't effective if used for less than a school year. The longer children engage, the more effective the toys are.

Montessori preschools support this because traditionally children are in the same classroom from age three to six. Then, if the children stay in this learning environment, they continue to engage with similar iterations of the toys in the older grades. 

3. By giving children multiple ways to connect concepts

As indicated in the first example, children in Montessori preschools get to engage with a concept in multiple different ways. That particular toy, however, isn't the only example. You may notice that a lot of the manipulatives use the same color-coding. 

In particular, you might see a set of math manipulatives that uses green to represent one's, blues for 10s, and reds for 100s. The preschool children may have green single beads, rows of connected blue beads in clusters of 10s, and sheets of red beads in groups of 100. 

Then, they may also have written numbers in the same colors. If they wanted to represent 26, for example, they could grab two sets of blue beads and six green beads. Then, they could also find the numeral "20" in blue along with the numeral "6" in green.

To learn more, contact a Montessori preschool directly. They can talk with you about how these preschools make learning fun.