Montessori Monday 4 2013/14
The Knobbed Cylinders
One of the five areas of the Montessori curriculum is the Sensorial Area, where
didactic, self-correcting materials help refine the children's sensorial awareness,
including their tactile, visual, auditory, olfactory and gustatory senses and the
kinestetic sense- that ability to perceive the dimensions of an object by its feel
in your hands. The Knobbed Cylinders are foundational materials in Sensorial,
available for some of the youngest children in the classroom and endlessly
The Knobbed Cylinders, sometimes called Cylinder Blocks, are a set of four panels,
each nesting ten cylinders with small knobs. Each panel varies in the relationship
of the cylinders' dimensions: one includes cylinders that are the same height but
different widths, one has different heights by the same width, and two contain
differences in width and height in inverse proportions. Through removing, sorting
and replacing the cylinders, children absorb a real and concrete understanding of
volume and its relationship to dimension. Simultaneously, children are building
muscles in their hands, developing their visual discrimination, and building the
cognitive pattern of left-to-right progressions that we use in reading English.
They're also beginning to understand the mathematical underpinnings of the Base Ten
system, as each cylinder differs from its neighbor in a proportion of tenths.
Finally, the perfectly sized knobbed build the child's critical pincer
grip, necessary for the careful manipulation of a pencil or paintbrush.
Of course, the child doesn't know that he or she is building all these skills! For
the child, the Knobbed Cylinders are attractive, engaging puzzles to be solved.
Careful observers will notice the children imagining stories within the blocks-
pretending each cylinder is a member of a family or that the block is a train.
Because the material, like all Montessori materials, is self-correcting, the child
can work with it until his or her curiosity is satisfied and without having to check
with a teacher to see if he or she did it "right." If an error occurs, a cylinder
will be left without a space at the end, drawing the child's attention to his or her
These beautiful materials are in use almost every day, throughout the year. Keep an
eye out for them when you have a chance to observe!
Catherine McTamaney, Ed.D
Christopher Academy Alumna