Materials : Simple to Complex

Please note that there are problems with this post and I’ve talked about, and fixed, those problems here. Thanks for reading!

[They do] it with [their] hands, by experience, first in play and then through work. The hands are the instruments of [their] intelligence. ~ Maria Montessori

In Ms. Hart’s presentation she explained the characteristics of the Montessori Materials:

•Simple to complex
•Leads from known to unknown
•Concrete to Abstract
•Graded sequentially
•Isolates concept
•Control of error

In a series of blog posts this year, I will be looking at these characteristics individually and will incorporate concrete examples. Today I start with “Simple to Complex”.

To illustrate how that works, let’s look at our own Kindergarten classroom.  This is my son using the Number Rods:


(Image credit: Ms Kao)

The number rods teach him relative amounts and prepare him for one to ten counting.

Soon, Ms Kao will introduce sandpaper numbers:


The children will then learn to put the concrete representation of one to ten (I.e., the rods) with the abstract representation of one to ten (the written number):


(Image credit: NAMC Teacher training blog)

From there, the children can move on to adding using the rods:

As you can see, the number rods have gone from simple understanding of relative quantity to the more complex idea of addition – simple to complex.  For a full breakdown of Montessori Math curriculum (and to see the many, many examples of the math materials moving from simple to complex), this is a good resource.

I’ve chosen math material as the example here but the language materials work in a similar way.

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