by Ms. Anisa Foy, Educational Advisor of AMCA
The Montessori classroom is full of teaching materials. None of these materials are toys, each one teaches the child a concept that is concrete and which the child will later use in the abstract. Every concept is presented to the child through these materials as concrete examples of an abstract idea.
The Pink Tower is a very important piece of material in the primary classroom, usually presented to the child the first month of his/her first year in the classroom.
What are the materials? Ten wooden pink cubes, differing in all three dimensions, the size increases progressively in algebraic series of the third power, starting with the first which is one cubic centimeter.
A small rug, and a small wooden stool or something similar so that the tower can be viewed from three sides. The size should enable the smallest child to reach the top cube.
What is the purpose of this material?
It teaches the child visual discrimination of differences in dimension. Education of voluntary movement, getting each piece centered on top of the last cube. It is also an indirect preparation of the mathematical mind.
It teaches the child language, the superlative and comparative of “small” and “large”
How is this material presented?
The child is invited to lay out a rug, making sure it is far from the where the completed tower stands.
The child and teacher walk back and forth collecting one piece at a time. There is a special technique for collection and carrying, start with the smallest cube, carry from the top using the first four fingers to hold. The teacher and child make ten trips to collect each cube individually. With the larger cubes, we use the other hand to support the cube from the bottom. The cubes are set down at random at the right of the rug.
When all the cubes are collected the teacher invites the child to sit opposite the open space at the rug, the teacher sits by the cubes.
The teacher starts building the tower in front of the child, starting by placing the largest cube in the space in front of the child, using the same carrying techniques as described above. The next largest cube is placed very gently on top of the base cube making sure it is centered, once in place you do not move it. The teacher continues this way, largest to smallest till the tower is complete.
Once the tower is complete invite the child to look at it from all angles admiring it.
The tower is then taken down by the teacher beginning with the smallest cube and working down to the largest, and placed at random to the right, one cube at a time.
At the end of the presentation, the teacher invites the child to build the tower, and walks away, observing from a distance. There is no need for the teacher to correct the child, as there is a control of error in the material. If the cubes are placed incorrectly the tower will not look right. The child is encouraged to repeat the work as long as there is an interest in it. Repetition builds concentration and helps the child to notice the visual discrimination inherent in the material. When the work is done, the teacher will show the child to put the material away one cube at a time, starting with the largest cube and ending with the smallest.
Special Note: There is very little conversation during the presentation, this encourages the child’s whole attention to focus on the presentation and not on the teacher’s words. This is also an individual presentation to one child.