Cards and Counters
The Montessori materials all share some common qualities: they are simple and beautiful, selfcorrecting and didactic. And they progress from concrete experiences with new concepts to increasingly abstract ones. The Cards and Counters combine simple wooden tablets and small disks in a seemingly simple exercise, but which requires a developed understanding of the numerals and quantities to be able to complete. In the Number Rods, the children learn about quantities in isolation. In the Sandpaper Numbers, they learn about numerals in isolation. In the combination of Rods and Sandpaper Numbers, they practice openended numerals with fixed quantities. In the Spindle Boxes, they practice openended quantities with fixed numerals. In the Cards and Counters, they practice both open ended quantities and open ended numerals. It's a much more complex work.
The child working with this material will first lay out the number cards from 1 through 9. Then, the child will match the quantities represented by each numeral with fortyfive small red disks. As adults, we can underestimate how complicated a task this is. The child needs to understand the order of the numerals without any control of error. Then the child needs to understand the quantities that match each numeral, again, without any external control beyond the total number of counters.
This material is also the first introduction to odds and evens, as the child, with a sense of order, is able to see each that even numbers can be placed in rectangular configuration, while the odd numbers will always have an extra counter without a pair.
Like many Montessori materials, the Cards and Counters look like simple playthings. When you look more closely, though, you see the elegance in these simple designs, developing and reinforcing children's mathematical minds without force, matched to children's natural interests and building upon their inherent strengths.
Catherine McTamaney, Ed.D.
Christopher Academy Alumna
