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Added Oct 20, 2014

The Introduction to Quantity

One of the hallmarks of the Montessori curriculum is the presentation of the decimal system. Montessori observed that children had a natural fascination with very large numbers... you may have noticed the same at your house. Ask your child how high he can count and you're likely to hear an answer like, "Fifteen million, four hundred and twenty thousand, six hundred and eighteen." This fascination drives children to want to learn about larger and larger quantities and, conversely, to become easily bored when limited to simple math operations using only single digits.

Because of the design of the Golden Bead materials, a child need only know how to count to ten to be able to explore very large numerals and quantities. In the first introduction illustrated here, children are introduced to a concrete materials for "unit," "ten," "hundred" and "thousand." If a child can count from 1-10, she can lay ten unit beads alongside a ten bar and see that they contain the same quantity. The child can count ten ten bars to compare to a hundred, and ten hundreds to compare to a thousand. Once the child has mastered the nomenclature for unit, ten, hundred and thousand, she can advance to operations using four digit numbers. Suddenly, the child who just a short time earlier was learning her numerals and quantities for 7,8, and 9 is adding 4213 + 2684 and counting out the answer correctly. (Did you do it in your head? It's 6897)

This presentation also lays the groundwork for later work in geometry. A unit equates to a point, a ten to a line, a square to a square (!) and a thousand to a cube. The child learning squaring understands that when you square a number, you can construct the physical square that has the length and height of that number. The child learning to cube understands that when you cube a number, you can construct the physical cube that has the length, height and depth of that number. These concepts (which many adults don't understand) are presented first in concrete, hands-on ways, at a point in children's development when they are most fascinated by the subject, with both immediate satisfaction and lasting benefit.

Catherine McTamaney, Ed.D.

Christopher Academy Alumna


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