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Added Apr 11, 2016

Montessori Monday: The Coin Boards

A curious phenomenon often happens when you ask young children what they understand about coins. Ask a young child if he would rather have ten pennies or one quarter, and he will often choose the pennies.

There's a logic to the choice: children understand quantity by what they can hold in their hands. Remember the golden beads. One unit is less than ten units. You can feel the difference when you count them all out. One spindle is less than eight spindles. The eight spindles are heavier and more cumbersome. But coins are far more abstract. While one quarter is less objects than ten pennies, it's worth two and a half times more.

To help make concrete these challenging equivalencies, children can explore the Coin Boards. In this series of wooden boards, the child can explore how many pennies make a nickel, how many ways they can build the equivalent value of a dime, or how many dimes, nickels and pennies can construct the value of a quarter. Children explore the differences between the concepts of value and quantity, and come to understand that coins can have large quantities but low values.

This is a modified Montessori material. That is to say, it is not one of Montessori's original designs but it is in keeping with the Montessori design principles for the didactic materials: it is self-correcting, concrete, simple, and beautiful. As our society changes over time, materials are sometimes added to the original Montessori materials, keeping the classrooms responsive to the children they serve.

Catherine McTamaney, Ed.D.

Christopher Academy Alimna


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