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Added Jan 28, 2019

The Bird's Eye View

Have you ever asked your child how much they love you? They may have answered something like, "A million zillion fifty!" Children love working with big numbers, imagining quantities larger than they know how to count and naming the biggest quantities they can imagine. Montessori uses that quality to support children as they learn to manipulate numbers and to understand place and exchange in the Base Ten System through one of our favorite lessons: The Bird's Eye View. 

Children, often working together, who have been introduced to the Golden Beads and who have demonstrated the ability to count from 1-9 will move on a series of lessons using cards and quantities to practice identifying units, tens, hundreds and thousands. After an initial introduction to these cards, they will be invited to build the Bird's Eye View, seen here. 

Imagine how much attention and care it takes for children to complete such an expansive lesson! Placing each card in order, then counting out the appropriate number of units, tens, hundreds and thousands, carrying them back and forth across the classroom, keeping them orderly and keeping track of all those little pieces as they're at work; this is a lesson that often takes multiple days for children to complete. It requires the concentration, coordination, independence  and order that is established through work with the Practical Life materials, the visual and tactile discrimination that is established in Sensorial, the early math materials and a good dose of social skill! It's no wonder these children look so proud of the work they've done. 

Meanwhile, they are learning the relationships of these quantities. They are learning, too, that each place value only goes through nine of that value before exchanging to the next place. When they apply that knowledge in mathematical operations, it's no surprise that they are able to quickly move from simple single-digit operations to ones that combine thousands, hundreds, tens and units. 

And while a small group of children may be working on this kind of lesson at one time, they are doing so in the company of their class, with other children navigating their work as they move around this large floor lesson, observing their construction and, often, cheering them on. It is indeed a labor of love, built on small lessons and a precise sequence, and opening the door to far more complex tasks to come. 

Catherine McTamaney, Ed.D.
Christopher Academy Alumna

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