MONTESSORI MONDAY 4 2014-15
The Pink Tower
No Montessori classroom would be complete without the Pink Tower, one of the original materials designed by Dr. Montessori herself.
For the child, the tower offers an intriguing challenge: build the ten cubes as high as you can make them without the tower crumbling. This is more difficult than it looks! While that largest cube, at a full 10cm cubed, is easy to manage and difficult to tumble, that tiny 1cm cube requires much more precision. Within the tower, like in so many other Montessori materials, there are hidden benefits, lessons to be internalized through trial and error.
For example, the tower helps to develop hand and eye coordination, as children manage the varying weights and dimensions of the ten cubes. You may see teachers presenting the tower by showing the child how to lift each cube from the top, the position from which the weight of the cube is most noticeable. Children experience the difference in weight that just a small change in dimension can create.
Further, the tower supports children's visual discrimination, as they choose which block to place next in the sequence. While the distinction between the largest and smallest cubes is immediately apparent, the distinction between sequential cubes are more nuanced. While adults may immediately notice the quirky proportions of an inaccurately built tower, the youngest children might initially only attend to whether the tower stands, building in their ability to notice the proportions of the tower only after extended use.
The Pink Tower also contributes to the foundation for the Base Ten number system by working in dimensions of diminishing tenths. Each cube is 1 centimeter smaller all around than the next largest cube, from the one-centimeter-cubed smallest cube to the ten-centimeter-cubed largest cube. This simple ratio is repeated throughout the Sensorial materials and helps the child to prepare for the mathematic operations.
As the child's precision grows, the Pink Tower can be combined with other sensorial materials to expand the challenge, or built with one or two edges aligned for more difficulty, or built with alternating centers of gravity to explore the distribution of force. Meanwhile, as a material that requires the child to carry each cube, one by one by one, from the shelf to the mat and back again, it establishes a sense of order, an ability to concentrate and an opportunity to practice gross motor control in the classroom. Finally, since the tower will not stand unless the child has organized all these components with accuracy, it serves as its own control of error, allowing the child, with his or her ever-increasing attention to detail, to notice independently when the tower has been constructed well.
Plus, the simple beauty of the pink cubes provides a balanced aesthetic that inspires many children to observe their own work. No wonder it's a favorite! Over a hundred years after it was first introduced, the Pink Tower has earned its place as a center of the Sensorial materials and a well-loved didactic component of the classroom.
Catherine McTamaney, Ed.D.
Christopher Academy Alumna