I M A Mathematician

Dr. Maria Montessori, like Blaise Pascal, believed the two aspects of the human mathematical mind were intuition and exactness.  She also believed the human tendency toward exactness was another proof of the mathematical mind. For today’s young Montessori student, math, with its rich variety of hands-on materials to manipulate, examine and manipulate again, is a world of sensorial discovery.  All of the mathematical materials involve the tendencies for manipulation, exactness, repetition, order, movement and self-perfection. In the classroom, mathematics begins around age four. The child has been working in the other three areas of the classroom for one to one and a half years (Practical Life, Sensorial and Language).  These three areas have provided the preparation for the work in the math area.  

Some of the direct aims of the math materials are:

  • Order
  • Concentration
  • Coordination
  • Independence
  • Predictability
  • Exactness/Sense of Accuracy
  • Concreteness
  • Logic and Reasoning
  • Problem Solving and Decision-Making Skills
  • Further Development of the Mathematical Mind
  • Further Development of the Intellect
  • Further Awareness and Appreciation of our Number System

Some of the indirect aims of the math materials are:

  • Temporal Relations:  i.e. Math Operations
  • Spatial Relations:  i.e. Formation of Numbers, Operations
  • One-to-One Correspondence:  i.e. Numeration, Linear Counting
  • Combination: i.e. Addition, Multiplication
  • Differences: Inequality
  • Similarities: Equality
  • Gradation: Greater than, Lesser than

The Montessori math materials are quite impressive.  We have the mathematical material in the primary classroom because Dr. Montessori saw–through  what the children showed her and as part of human nature–that each human being has a mathematical mind; therefore, we should train it and use it. The children liked numbers; quantity; and they started asking relative questions.  

The following indirect preparations help the child with further exploration in mathematics: a logical and orderly mind; the ability to concentrate; a good memory that is guided by reason and attention to detail.  The math materials follow the same general pattern when presented to the children: first, the quantity is presented in concrete form, followed by the child’s own work with the material; then, the corresponding written symbol is introduced, followed by the child’s own work with the material; finally, the concrete and the graphic symbol are combined giving the association, followed by the child’s own work with the combined material.  

In the Mathematical area there are six groups and each deal with a separate concept. The six groups are: 

  1. The Foundation—Numbers One to Ten 
  2. The Decimal System 
  3. Linear Counting 
  4. Memorization 
  5. Towards Abstraction 
  6. Fractions 

Below we will highlight a Montessori work:  The Stamp Game.

The Stamp Game takes what the child has experienced with the Golden Bead material and puts it into a more abstract form. (The Stamp Game comes toward the end of the exercises in Group II–the Decimal System.)  It is the first time the child sees not only the written symbol of the 4 operations, but also the first time the child writes equations on paper.  The square or tiles of the Stamp Game are referred to as ‘stamps’ because they are the size of a postage stamp. The tiles color-coordinate to the numbers that were read in the Golden Beads: units and thousands are green; the tens are blue and the hundreds are red. 

DIRECT AIM: 

  • To give the child an opportunity to carry out individual exercises with the decimal system. 
  • To give the child further understanding of the four operations. 
  • It is a step towards abstraction since only written symbols are used rather than beads. 
  • To introduce the child to the operational signs used in our mathematical language.

The Life of Maria Montessori

Greetings IMA families and welcome to the 2019-2020 school year.

As your journey into Montessori education begins, I invite all parents to be inspired by a lady that, through extensive research, observation and deep understanding of the way children should be educated, revolutionized and created a novel pedagogical science.

Who was this woman that revolutionized the field of childhood education? She was a great scientist and human being that never gave up on her personal dream to understand, support and enhance children’s education and performance throughout all stages of their life. I am excited to write an article highlighting some of Maria Montessori’s life events. Dr. Montessori not only transformed millions of people’s life but also my own, and not only as a parent and teacher but also as a person.

As a first-generation Italian, I remember being curious about the 1,000-Italian lira bank note that existed before the Euro came in circulation in 1999. As in the United States the dollar bill has George Washington, in Italy there was Maria Montessori’s face to represent the 1,000 banknotes. I carried this woman’s image on the bank note as a great curiosity. As a child I realized that she was important and perhaps she was a lady that loved all children. Interestingly, later she became a big influence in my professional and personal life.


1,000-Italian lira bank note

Dr. Montessori made her mark in society at a time when women were not considered or acknowledged to be capable of going to University. It was against all odds for women to receive a University degree and pursue a medical career. She had the courage and strength to not follow the deeply rooted mentality of the time period where she lived, but to follow her dreams and her strong love for educating all children. She noticed through her long observations that children needed a prepared environment to support their desires to learn.

Maria Montessori was born on August 31, 1870 in the town of Chiaravalle, Italy.

Her father Alessandro was employed as an accountant in the civil service, and her mother, Renilde Stoppani, was a very well-educated woman that had a passion for reading. She was a great mentor for Maria Montessori throughout her life demonstrating how important a parent’s influence and support can allow a child to reach great possibilities. Maria moved to Rome (Italy) when she was 10 and was able to continue her studies there.

Once she graduated secondary school, despite her parents’ encouragement to pursue a career in teaching (as all the well-educated women of that era), she was interested in medical science. This latter career choice was a male dominated field at the time.

After facing insurmountable obstacles and after many refusals due to gender biases, Maria was eventually given entry to the Sapienza University of Rome in 1890, becoming one of the first women enrolling in medical school in Italy. She graduated in Medicine with honors in July 1896.

Subsequently, she became known for her high levels of competency in treating patients, but also for the respect she showed to patients from all social classes; she was also involved in the Women’s Rights Movement, that was very revolutionary considering the historical context.

In 1897, Maria joined the psychiatric clinic of the University of Rome, as a volunteer for a research project involving children with learning disabilities.

Maria gave birth to her only son Mario that later became her closest team member and work partner. Together they were able to continue doing great work to support children.

At twenty-eight years-old, Maria began developing the idea of a global social reform in areas such as gender roles, or advocacy for children, that will be considered one of the recurring themes throughout her life. During this period, she started advocating the very controversial theory that the lack of support for mentally and developmentally disabled children was the cause of their dysfunctional behavior.

After a long period of time spent doing her own studies and researches in anthropology, pedagogy and philosophy, that lasted from 1904 to 1908, she became a lecturer at the Pedagogic School of the University of Rome.

Afterwards, Maria Montessori was invited to open a school for the working class in the area of San Lorenzo, Rome. In 1907, there was the First Children’s House created called “Casa Dei Bambini.” The children that attended were left to learn life skills as their parents worked all day. The purpose of the school was to have activities for the children that allowed them not to destruct the property of the home. In addition, Maria was able to present her material to the children for them to practice becoming ‘normal’ children.


“Casa Dei Bambini.”

As Maria continued to observe the children, she came to the realization that children needed an environment that was designed to have activities to support their development. After this experience Maria opened her first training course in 1909 and her observational notes allowed her to publish her first book that same year ‘The Montessori Method’. This later was translated in many different languages. All over the world Maria Montessori training programs and schools started to begin. This also allowed Maria to travel and participate throughout the world to public speak about education for children.

Both Maria and her son established the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) to carry out her work.

Throughout the war times in 1936 Maria and her son, Mario, traveled to England and then stayed in the Netherlands for some time. Maria was invited to a three-month lecture tour in 1939 that lead her to live in India for seven years. During Maria and Mario’s time in India is where the approach to support the 6-12 child through ‘Cosmic Education’ was developed. Together with her son she was able to train numerous Indian teachers.

After Maria’s return to the Netherlands in 1946 she emphasized the theme of ‘Education and Peace’ to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). This led Maria to be nominated in 1949, 1950 and 1951 for the Nobel Peace Prize. With great excitement, I share with families to read her book “Peace and Education” to appreciate her great works. Maria had the opportunity to live and visit so many countries in the world. During her travels she was able to work with so many important figures throughout the world. She considered herself a citizen of the world.

She was buried in the small fisherman town of Noordwijk, Netherlands.

On her grave it says in Italian “I beg the dear, all-powerful children to join me in creating peace in man in the world.” This is just a small snapshot of Maria Montessori’s life accomplishments.

I had the great privilege of pursuing my AMI Montessori training in St. Paul, Minnesota. Within my training center one can visit the Montessori Museum and explore through documented pictures taken from around the world how Montessori education has progressed and expanded all over the world.

The Montessori Method is an approach to education that does not classify itself as public or private. It is considered a universal method for all children. In today’s globalized society the Montessori education allows children to be prepared for the world in the standards of education. This Montessori method of education is well-recognized and appreciated by educators throughout the world. The Montessori Method does not stop at primary. Primary opens the door to allow the children to learn life skills and the introduction to learning that supports the first stage of life. Elementary is the academic years where the child needs a prepared environment for the acquisition of learning all the different themes of education. The next stage of life (6-12) is when the child asks questions and wants to discover the how and why. We want the child to develop a love for learning that will allow them to become well-educated human beings that they will carry throughout their college years.

I praise IMA parents for investing in their children’s education. Whether you fell into Montessori by chance or researched for quality education, I welcome you to this rewarding environment for your child. They will be able to carry the skills and academics they learn throughout these years for the rest of their life. These are the foundational skills that they will use in University and their practical everyday life. Maria Montessori strongly believed in the power of children and that education can change the world. She knew the power of education given to the “child mind” had the capacity to create a peaceful and productive world that will transform the future generations.


Maria Montessori

Sincerely,
Suzette Vetrini
Elementary Directress, IMA

I M A friend

Social Development in the Elementary Classroom

One of the most exciting experience for an educator is to witness how and to which extent the children are able to learn and grow on a social level. In the elementary years Maria Montessori used the term “2nd plane characteristics” to describe the human development at the ages of 6-12.

The characteristics of the second plane include the reasoning mind and the self-construction of the child, a stage in which the child is building himself intellectually as a person. In this peculiar stage of their lives there is a great curiosity and imagination accompanied by herd instincts and desire to work in groups with their peers. This is the age when children enjoy learning about heroes and mythology and are eager to explore the world surrounding them as a means of understanding themselves and the other being in the human consortium.

In this regard, Montessori education offers infinite possibilities to explore within the classroom but also outside the classroom with its organized Going out activities lead by the children.

The Montessori prepared environment allows the children of the elementary years to have a functionally and aesthetically appealing space that meets their needs and curiosities. Children are free to sit where they want and work with whom they want and are able to decide what works they would like to do and most important, when and how they want to do it. This helps children learn how to make decisions and not be afraid to make mistakes, giving them a great room to grow, to explore possibilities and improve unconditionally.

Socialization in the elementary is an essential aspect of this developmental period of the child and the Montessori classroom offers numerous opportunities to gain this experience. Some of them include taking care of their environment and organizing their snack. As a classroom the whole class organizes with each other how the classroom should be put back in order. Taking care of the classroom allows the elementary child to appreciate and love their environment. They work as a team, and they learn how to divide the work amongst each other. When something is not done correctly, they learn how to gracefully help each other correct it.

Another opportunity is organizing and preparing snack. The children responsible learn how to do the correct portions and set it up beautifully. Most importantly they are working together and dividing the work. Lastly, they organize their Friday agenda meetings. The children put together what will be discussed and in what order. There are numerous events that they also put together and organize.

In the elementary classroom it is also easy to spot a child’s weakness and strengths. Since there is the freedom to see the child in his/her true state, an experienced guide is able to support the child with the child’s weaknesses and making stronger the child’s strength.

Montessori children become excellent team players and learn how to work with different personalities, and it is not just about cleaning up or preparing a snack. Behind all that work there is a big lesson that needs to be learned in an environment that allows the child to meet their needs and satisfy their curiosities. Some of the key life skills the children develop are tolerance, patience, good communication skills, self confidence and open mindedness. All these qualities are necessary skills to live a happier and more successful life. These are values that the children need for the future of tomorrow in whatever path life takes them.

I strongly encourage parents to come out and visit the Friday agenda meetings to see and hear the children’s thoughts and viewpoints. In the agenda meetings the children share their interests and their thoughts on lessons they received during the week. We provide children with Cosmic Education. It is a term that Maria Montessori used to explain the interdisciplinary curriculum of the elementary child according to their developmental needs.

Lastly, I cherish observing all the creativity the children are capable to create when given the environment suitable to their characteristic needs. It is a true treasure to see this human energy wanting to change the world for the better.

By: Suzette Vetrini
Elementary Directress, IMA

I M A reader

HOW DOES MY CHILD LEARN TO READ?

Montessori takes a methodical yet natural process to help your children learn to read. Here are our basic steps in the classroom:

  • Sound Games
  • Sandpaper Letters
  • Moveable Alphabet
  • Object Box #1
  • Puzzle Words
  • Object Box #2
  • The Function of Words
  • Word Study
  • Reading Analysis

Reading begins with sounds. Once the child has been talking and has an increase of their vocabulary, we introduce many different sound games. First, we play simple games of “I Spy.” Instead of looking for colors or objects we hunt for the sounds we ‘hear’ in words related to specific objects in front of us. We start with hearing the beginning sounds, then ending sounds and finally middle sounds in words. When your child shows some mastery with this game, we move to the introduction of Sandpaper Letters. Sandpaper Letters allow the child to see the graphic symbol of the letter sound and we associate the sound to the symbol. A few important notes with the SP letters:

  • They are in lowercase cursive.
  • We introduce the sound rather than the name of the letter (so the letter ‘m’ is pronounced as ‘mmmm’ not ‘em’).
  • They are given in a three-period lesson—three letters demonstrated at one time to increase memorization.
  • The ‘tracing’ of each sound helps to commit to long-term memory but also increases muscle memory for writing.

If you are practicing sounds with your children at home (and we hope you are!), please emphasize only the lowercase alphabet. Most children see many letters in uppercase print and if you think about the different sets of letters: lowercase cursive and print; uppercase cursive and print, that is 4 different ‘sets’ of letters children are learning. Just focus on one set at a time, preferably lowercase cursive. This will increase their memorization and ease of knowing the ‘sounds.’

When the children know a good portion of sounds (perhaps 10 consonants and all the vowels), we progress to the Movable Alphabet. This is not only a crucial step on the path to reading, but also a key component of the thought process of ‘writing.’ The Movable Alphabet allows your child the opportunity to analyze sounds in words. The Moveable Alphabet encourages the child to write, using the sounds that she knows. We are very clear in using the term write, rather than spell, because writing is what the focus is on, not spelling. Words that are written with the Moveable Alphabet are never corrected.

Since the words have come from the child, she is more likely to attempt to read them back usually before she begins any other form of phonetic reading work. The Moveable Alphabet teaches the child that she can express herself through written language. Its beauty is that the cumbersome mechanics of writing and the parameters of proper spelling are not present, so that the child is free to truly express her ideas without criticism or obstacle. Spoken language and written language are both important aspects of reading.

Phonetic reading is introduced next with Object Box #1. While there are not many all phonetic words in our language, it is still important your child’s brain sees how to blend the simple sounds together to form a word. This process is key to all later ‘reading.’

Puzzle Words are the sight words. These words we tell the children are like a puzzle. We just figure them out by memorizing them. We send the list of puzzle words home to help aide in their memorization. (See note below at how often puzzle words are in even the simplest of books.)

Phonograms—these are all the irregular sounds in the English language. We all know there is more irregular than regular in English, so this is an important component to reading.

When the children have a strong foundation of these three pieces: phonetic reading, puzzle words and phonograms, the reading generally starts to take off. All children have the lightbulb go off in their brain at different times. It’s the moment when the child’s brain fuses all of these steps together and you actually feel like your child is reading. This is the most thrilling moment and yet the reading doesn’t stop there. You’ll keep adding the next level of words, vocabulary, sentences and books to read and further extend your child’s reading ability and comprehension. In the meantime, keep practicing the sounds with your children!

Bob Books:

Set 1, Book 4

(puzzle words highlighted in blue)

Mac

Mac had a bag.

The bag had a dog.

Mac had a bag and a dog.

Mag had a rag.

Mac can tag Mag.

Mac got the rag.

Mac sat on the rag.

Mag sat on the bag.

The End

Montessori Thoughts

Schools of choice have been a theme for a few decades now in education so I’m conscious daily that you have choices and I celebrate that you’ve selected Montessori.  As a parent who immediately enrolled her adopted daughters in Montessori, a wife who scheduled her husband to observe a Montessori classroom during our honeymoon, and a trained elementary teacher, I believe the Montessori philosophy provides so many advantages for your child.

The foremost that always warms my heart is the increasing levels of independence that your child is offered and provided.  As I look around the classroom, I see so many opportunities.  Providing child-sized materials and equipment facilitates their work (such as a scrapbooking paper-cutter for a project).  Offering lessons in “grace and courtesy” encourages them to brainstorm their own solutions.  Mrs. Spence recently practiced with the students how to interrupt a lesson (ask a classmate, write the teacher a note, or try a different work while waiting patiently).  Learning to work with your peers and problem solve are strengths we presented from the Tony Wagner book (The Global Achievement Gap) at our Parent Ed Night and necessities for today’s workforce.  This week I witnessed their interpersonal skills improving by leaps and bounds as the students introduced themselves freely at The Stratford and engaged in conversation with our senior friends.  The students were so independent this week that I was able to sit down and chat with a resident who shared how impressed she was with our children (their manners, intelligence, and social graces).

Freedom is another benefit touted from Montessori experts.  So many freedoms are often listed, such as movement, choice, and exploration.  My theory album also details these as freedom from “timetables, curriculum restraints, and rewards and punishments”.  And a Montessorian always understands that these freedoms are offered with responsibility (so students gain self-awareness and chaos doesn’t reign).  The variety of choices around the room at this moment attests to this:  two students practicing division with racks and tubes, a student researching Thailand, another practicing Chinese characters with brush painting, two students examining and identifying rocks, another at snack, a few writing and two stretching with yoga poses. The Google founders emphasize that their take-away from their Montessori roots was to “think outside the box”.

In addition, individualization is key to how I approach lessons and Dr. Montessori designed the materials and classroom through her observation of children’s needs and characteristics (style of learning).  Small groups enable me to discern how students have internalized their understanding and to provide challenge and continuation.  Each presentation extends in so many ways (e.g. a fraction lesson has led a few students to explore equivalencies, others to draw creative pictures while others made a poster naming the fractions).  The materials provide hands-on exploration and a visual understanding to provide independent abstraction (i.e. not teaching rules but students verbalizing their observations).  For example, I’ve had students tell me that fractions are equivalent because they see the lines of halves with the circles.  Consider a student that derives formulas for area through the materials.  When they’ve discovered ideas independently, they’re able to retrace the steps again and are not dependent on memorization skills.

I hope that keeping a few students for fourth grade next year will provide opportunities for students that are in line with their growth as well as continue to grow our program. Having fourth graders will encourage me to take the training for the Montessori United Nations and open up further opportunities for our students.  https://montessori-mun.org/ Each year we’ve had several inquiries and tours for fifth graders so there seems to be a market for an upper elementary and having fourth graders will encourage them to commit.  Once we have a permanent location, I’ll take the next step in exploring our possibilities for the program (charter, accreditation, schools of choice scholarships, etc.).  I’ll definitely want any expertise you have to offer in these areas to inform our path.

As I share my day (and lessons) with your students, I’m constantly amazed at their interactions with the materials and each other.  There’s so many other thoughts rattling around my brain and perhaps my fingers will find the keyboard again in those moments.

Thank you for choosing Montessori for your family and for choosing IMA, a school that provides a quality AMI education for your child!

Mrs. Brigitte Frost, The Elementary Directress

January 2017

I M A writer

The Movable Alphabet

Writing is easier than reading. When writing, one expresses one’s own thoughts; therefore, it naturally comes first. When someone is writing that person analyzes the sounds of his own words. When we are reading we are analyzing someone else’s thoughts and words, which is naturally harder to do.

The Movable Alphabet is a large box containing all of the letters of the English alphabet. Vowels are blue, consonants are red or pink. This color-coding corresponds to the sandpaper letters, with which the child has had much experience. The Movable Alphabet encourages the child to write, using the sounds that she knows. We are very clear in using the term write, rather than spell, because writing is what the focus is on, not spelling. Words that are written with the Movable Alphabet are never corrected.

Since the words have come from the child, she is more likely to attempt to read them back usually before she begins any other form of phonetic reading work. The Movable Alphabet teaches the child that she can express herself through written language. Its beauty is that the cumbersome mechanics of writing and the parameters of proper spelling are not present, so that the child is free to truly express her ideas with out criticism or obstacle.

DIRECT AIM:

 Direct Preparation for Writing

 Help the child in exploration and analysis of his own language

 Reproduce words with graphic symbols

INDIRECT AIM:

 Indirect preparation for reading

I M A scientist, architect, collaborator…

The Pink Tower

The Pink Tower is a signature work of the Montessori materials—instantly recognized—but has deep meaning and value to the classroom. The scientific design of the material is that they are ten pink wooden cubes ranging from 1 cm3 to 10 cm3. They grow progressively in the algebraic series of the third power. As wit most Sensorial Materials, the material is presented in specific sequences:

  1. Introduction of the First Period: the basic exercises of using and manipulating the materials.
  2. Introduction of the Language: language is the abstract quality associated with the material; with the PT it is large/small; larger/smaller & largest/smallest; this is only done after the child has had some experience using the materials.
  3. Introduction of the GAMES: the games introduce & reinforce many concepts to the child (see below).
  4. Exploration: The child always initiates this; there are so many interesting ways the children explore with all of the Montessori materials.

DIRECT AIM:

Visual Discrimination of Dimensions

INDIRECT AIM:

– Gaining muscular control of arm and hand

– Concentration

– Appreciation of beauty in design

– Indirect preparation for the hand in writing

– Preparation for the development of mathematical mind (to some extent)

– Preparation for mathematics

– Coordination (eye-hand coordination)

– Refinement of voluntary movement (training of the will)

The Sensorial Games

– Addresses all of the child’s Human Tendencies

– Help to expand the child’s interest for the material and keep him motivated to stay with the material

– Keep the child repeating the concepts embedded in the exercises; he is able to repeat the concrete aspect, so that when the abstract idea is developed it will be even more enhanced for the child

– The language is repeated with the games, so that the memory is increased

– Further develops concentration and will

– Link the sensorial material with the rest of the environment

– Are social; the children learn collaboration with one another