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Added Mar 13, 2017

Montessori Monday: The Division Board

Throughout the Montessori materials, particular structures are in place to support children as they adopt and expand their understanding of the world around them. In the Early Childhood years, these include materials that build on children's earlier experiences and respond to their development across multiple domains.

For example, a child who is interested in learning to write her name needs first to have the physical capacity to hold a pencil and to form each letter legibly. She needs to be able to recognize particular letters. She needs to be able to sequence those letters. She needs to be able to plan where on the page she'll write, how tall each letter will be, what direction the word will go... a seemingly simple task, like writing the name, "Ann" actually includes multiple, complicated physical, intellectual and cognitive tasks within it. As a result, parents can see ample opportunities for our youngest children to develop their physical skills and build their cognitive ones, step by step, concretely and simply, until they are second hand. Likewise, as children grow and develop these skills, they become ready for more complicated tasks, ones that require more complex and simultaneous coordination of their thinking and bodies. They become capable of thinking more abstractly, of holding information in their minds for longer and imaging things which are not in their hands.

Parents see children, after early experiences is Montessori, engaged in more academically advanced lessons, moving with the momentum provided by the foundation of the earlier work. The Division Board is one such example. For a young child of two or three, the Board would be an attractive series of beads without much purpose. For the more experienced child who has already explored and experimented with the Golden Beads and is able to think more abstractly, table-top exercises with smaller symbolic materials are more appropriate. After mastering Addition and Multiplication with the Golden Beads, the child moves on to Division and, later, Subtraction with the Golden Beads. When the teacher observes that the child is processing those operations quickly, using his or her memory and keeping quantities "in mind" instead of "in hand," she or he will introduce the boards. The child has already experienced separating thousands, hundreds, tens and units into identical groups. Now, she is ready to increase her speed in these operations by using symbolic materials.

Here, the child uses a series of small skittles to symbolize people or groups. Then, she counts out the quantity identified in her division equation, giving each skittle one bead until all the beads have been distributed. Then, she can count up how many each has and how many are remaining. She can choose to work through equations offered to her by the teacher or a friend or to develop her own, and she can choose whether to record those equations. Each choice reflects a different capacity for the child and a different physical, intellectual and cognitive challenge.

As children remain in Montessori, the foundations of simple, concrete experiences in their younger years blossom into the complicated, thorough understanding of seemingly complex concepts, often far earlier than parents might expect children to master these materials. If, like many adults, you remember learning Division in Third Grade, you should not be surprised when your five or six year old discusses division with four-digit numbers in his or her Montessori classroom. When academic concepts are presenting in a developmentally appropriate way, responsive to the cognitive, physical, intellectual and emotional growth of the child, great things can happen.

For more details about our Kindergarten and First Grade programs and how they may differ from traditional school settings, contact your Campus Director.

Catherine McTamaney, Ed.D.

Christopher Academy Alumna

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