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How Does Montessori Teach Addition to 3 - 6 Year Olds?

Dr. Maria Montessori observed that children learn most effectively through direct experience, investigation and discovery. This led her to design a number of multi-sensory, sequential and self-correcting materials for the children to learn from. Let's explore some addition materials through which young children can learn addition and explain your child’s ideal learning process with each item.

1) Addition with Short Bead Stair

The bead stair consists of colored bead bars that concretely represent the numbers from 1-9. Two bead stair sets can be used together to practice addition.

This helps children physically count and understand the concept that addition means putting two quantities together.

2) Addition with Number Rods

Similar to the bead stair, number rods help children understand the concept that addition means putting two quantities together. This material shows each number through a single object separate from the others: quantity as a single entity.

3. Addition Finger Chart

The addition finger chart is a Montessori material used to practice and memorize unit addition combinations. The finger chart has numbers 0-9 printed across the top in blue and 1-9 printed down the left side in red, and a grid showing all the sums of the combinations of those numbers.

The child draws a problem from the bag and uses their fingers on the chart to find the answer. Then they write down the entire equation on their paper. This furthers memorization of the essential addition combinations and offers the possibility of repetition.

4. Addition Strip Board A addition strip board is table chart with a grid of numbers along the top (1-10 in red and 11-18 in blue) with a red line dividing the grid between 10 and 11. Blue and red wooden strips with numbers on them to match their length. Papers and writing supplies are provided for problem solving. This material reinforces the mechanism of addition by helping the child to see and memorize the essential combinations. (Ex: 1+6=7, 2+5=7, 3+4=7)

5. Addition with Bank Game

This Montessori Material introduces the child to the concept of place value, teaches how to build and read big numbers, and is used to demonstrate 4-digit addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. This material includes a small set of numbered cards for every digit, tens, hundreds, and 1,2,+3 thousands. Bank game provides a sensorial impression of addition by quantities together to form a larger quantity.

6. Addition Stamp Game

The stamp game is a material composed of a box divided into compartments with Green, Blue, Red, Green wooden squares with 1, 10, 100, and 1000 written on them. The child takes out the stamps and writes out two or more numbers (using all four categories – thousands, hundreds, tens, and units) on the paper and solves addition equations using the wooden tiles and the chart.

7. Addition with Small Bead Frame

The small bead frame is similar to the more known abacus, which has beads on wires representing units, tens, hundreds and thousands. No carry-over addition equations are written on paper for the child to solve by using the material. This offers an opportunity for the child to apply memorized knowledge of the essential combinations in a sensorial approach.

These are just a few ways that Montessori teaches addition in the classroom. Teachers are creative and will also use more common objects such as dice, beads, and erasures to make learning addition engaging for the children.

How to help at home with addition?

  • Count quantities at home with the concept of what each person has and how many you have all together.

  • Think of combinations of numbers less than 10 and add them in your head (out loud so your child can hear you)

  • Keep practicing adding numbers from 1-9 in random combinations.

  • Think of lots of ways you can make the same sum. (9 + 3 = 12, 8 + 4 = 12, 7 + 5 = 12, etc…)

  • For more advanced addition, help your child to write large lists of numbers. You can make a bead frame with a shoebox and colored beads for your child to work on at home.

Happy adding!

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