What is Montessori Maths?

Written by Dan

Last updated

Montessori Maths is a unique, hands-on approach to teaching mathematics pioneered by Dr. Maria Montessori. This method turns abstract mathematical concepts into tangible, concrete experiences children can interact with and understand.

In Montessori Maths, children are introduced to mathematical concepts through specially designed materials and activities that stimulate their senses and curiosity.

From counting and sorting to fractions and geometry, Montessori Maths makes learning interactive and enjoyable, fostering a deep-seated understanding and love for numbers in young minds.

Join us as we delve into Montessori Maths, exploring its principles, methods, and benefits.

Related: For more, check out our article on How Montessori Teaches Reading  here.

what is montessori

The Principles of Montessori Maths

The Montessori Maths method is underpinned by a set of key principles that guide the teaching and learning process. These principles are designed to nurture a deep, intuitive understanding of maths in children.

The Importance of Hands-On Learning

In Montessori Maths, hands-on learning takes centre stage. Children are encouraged to interact with specially designed materials to explore mathematical concepts physically.

This tactile approach makes learning more engaging and helps children concretely understand abstract ideas.

They can touch, move, and manipulate objects, which aids in developing a sensory-based understanding of mathematical concepts.

The Progression from Concrete to Abstract

Montessori Maths follows a logical progression from concrete to abstract. Children start by working with physical materials that represent mathematical concepts.

Over time, as their understanding deepens, they gradually progress to more abstract representations.

For instance, a child might first learn addition using physical counters before moving on to written equations.

This step-by-step progression ensures that children fully understand a concept before moving onto the next, reducing the risk of confusion or gaps in understanding.

The Role of Self-Directed Learning

Self-directed learning is another cornerstone of the Montessori approach. In a Montessori Maths class, children are free to choose what they want to learn and work on.

They set their own pace, guided by their interests and curiosity. This fosters a love of learning, encourages independence, and helps children take ownership of their education.

Teachers act as facilitators, stepping in to introduce new concepts or provide guidance when needed, but largely allowing children to discover and learn on their own.

The Montessori Maths Materials

The Montessori Maths curriculum is renowned for its unique, specially designed materials.

These materials are more than just educational tools; they are an integral part of the learning process, facilitating the understanding of complex mathematical concepts.

An Overview of the Materials Used in Montessori Maths

Montessori Maths materials are meticulously crafted to engage children’s senses and stimulate their natural curiosity.

They range from simple items like number rods and sandpaper numbers for younger children, to more complex tools like bead chains and fraction circles for older students.

Other materials include the Golden Beads for introducing place value and arithmetic operations and the Geometric Solids for exploring three-dimensional shapes.

Each material is designed with a specific purpose in mind, aiding in developing key mathematical skills and concepts.

How These Materials Help Children Understand Mathematical Concepts

Montessori Maths materials bring abstract concepts to life, allowing children to physically see, touch, and manipulate mathematical ideas.

For instance, the Golden Beads help children understand the concept of ‘units,’ ‘tens,’ ‘hundreds,’ and ‘thousands’ by representing these quantities in a concrete form.

Similarly, fraction circles visually demonstrate how a whole can be divided into equal parts, making the concept of fractions more tangible.

These materials also provide a self-correcting aspect. If a child makes a mistake, the physical nature of the materials often makes the error apparent, allowing the child to identify and correct their own mistakes.

This fosters self-reliance and encourages problem-solving.

Key Concepts in Montessori Maths

Montessori Maths is not just about teaching children how to count or do basic arithmetic. It aims at developing a deep, intuitive understanding of mathematical concepts.

Here are some of the key concepts that form the backbone of the Montessori Maths curriculum.

Counting and Number Sense

The journey into Montessori Maths begins with counting and number sense. Children are introduced to the concept of quantity using concrete materials like number rods and bead chains.

They learn to associate each number with its corresponding quantity, laying the foundation for number sense.

As children progress, they also learn about the decimal system and place value, which are crucial for understanding larger numbers and performing complex operations.

Arithmetic Operations (Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division)

Arithmetic operations are a big part of Montessori Maths. However, children are taught to understand what these operations truly mean instead of just memorising procedures.

For instance, addition is the process of bringing quantities together, while subtraction involves taking away. Multiplication and division are introduced as extensions of addition and subtraction.

This conceptual understanding makes it easier for children to grasp and remember these operations.

Fractions and Decimals

Fractions and decimals are another important component of Montessori Maths. Children learn to visualise fractions and decimals using tools like fraction circles and decimal boards and understand their relationships to whole numbers.

They also explore operations involving fractions and decimals, which helps build a strong foundation for more advanced maths.

Geometry and Measurement

Geometry and measurement are also covered in Montessori Maths. Children explore shapes and their properties using geometric solids and other materials.

They learn to measure length, weight, and volume using appropriate tools, and are introduced to units of measurement.

This hands-on exploration of geometry and measurement enhances spatial reasoning and helps children see the real-world applications of maths.

The Benefits of Montessori Maths

How Montessori Maths Stimulates Curiosity and Engagement

The hands-on, explorative nature of Montessori Maths naturally stimulates curiosity and engagement. Children are not just passive recipients of information but active participants in their learning process.

They manipulate materials, ask questions, solve problems, and discover mathematical concepts independently. This active involvement makes learning more enjoyable and meaningful, leading to higher engagement and motivation.

The Long-Term Benefits of a Strong Foundation in Maths

A solid foundation in maths opens up a world of opportunities. It enhances logical thinking, problem-solving skills, and the ability to make informed decisions.

Montessori Maths, focusing on conceptual understanding and practical application, provides this strong foundation. It prepares children not just for further mathematical studies, but also for other areas of life where mathematical thinking is crucial.

Testimonials and Research Supporting Montessori Maths

Numerous testimonials from parents, teachers, and students attest to the effectiveness of Montessori Maths. Many report improved mathematical understanding, greater interest in maths, and enhanced problem-solving skills.

Research also supports these claims. For instance, a study published in “Science” found that Montessori students outperformed their peers in traditional schools in maths and science.

Montessori Maths in Practice

Seeing Montessori Maths in action can provide a clearer picture of how this approach works.

How a Typical Montessori Maths Lesson Looks Like

A typical Montessori Maths lesson is quite different from a traditional maths class. Instead of a teacher-led lecture, you’ll see children working individually or in small groups, exploring materials, and discovering mathematical concepts at their own pace.

Lessons are tailored to each child’s level of understanding and interest. The classroom environment is calm and focused, with children deeply engaged in their work.

The Role of the Teacher in Montessori Maths

In Montessori Maths, the teacher’s role is more of a guide than a traditional instructor. Teachers observe each child’s progress and readiness for new concepts, introduce appropriate materials and activities, and provide assistance when needed.

However, they allow children to explore, make mistakes, and find solutions on their own. This approach fosters independence, self-confidence, and a love of learning, which are invaluable skills for lifelong learning.


Montessori Maths offers a unique, hands-on approach to mathematical education that has proven highly effective. Its carefully designed materials and emphasis on self-discovery stimulate engagement and foster a deep understanding of mathematical concepts.

Rather than focusing on rote memorization, Montessori Maths nurtures mathematical thinking, problem-solving skills, and a love for learning.

The benefits of this approach are not just immediate; they have long-term implications as well. A strong foundation in maths can open a world of opportunities, enhancing logical thinking and decision-making skills essential in various fields of study and career paths.

Parents and educators wishing to cultivate a positive attitude towards maths and inspire lifelong learning should explore Montessori Maths further.

Whether you’re considering it for your children, your students, or even for yourself, Montessori Maths offers a comprehensive, engaging, and rewarding way to learn mathematics.

In the words of Maria Montessori, “The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s natural desire to learn.” Montessori Maths does exactly that, creating an environment where children are excited to explore, discover, and learn.

So why not take the first step and dive into the fascinating world of Montessori Maths? You might be surprised at what you and your children can achieve.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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