Edition 4 | June 2018

Talking Maths

When talking to adults about their own experiences of mathematics
you will often hear that they either loved it or they loathed it.

Talking Maths

Natasha Williams, Director 3-6 Environment

There exists the idea that you are either good at maths or you are good at language, as if they are complete opposites. So why do we have such a large Mathematics area in our 3-6 children’s house that seems so academically focussed? Montessori observed that children are naturally attracted to the science of number as Mathematics is the language that all humans use to make sense of the world around them. It can therefore be said that human kind has a mathematical mind.

All humans exhibit this mathematical propensity, even little children. Math is all around the young child from day one. How old are you? In 5 minutes we will leave. You were born on the 2ndday of May. We need five apples. In order to support this natural interest in their world and our mathematical mind Montessori devised a set of materials for the child to gain a concrete experience to link their mathematical language too.

By age four, the child is ready for the mathematics materials. Prior to this age they have been indirectly prepared for it through their experiences in Practical Life. Through activities such as scrubbing a table, flower arranging, hand washing they have established a work habit, developed an ability to follow a sequence, coordinated their movements and have an ability to concentrate.

Talking Maths

The sensorial materials are early mathematical materials and develop the child’s senses with exactness. Montessori called them keys to the world as they provide the child with an experience linked with language as a means to describe their world; loud/ soft, rough/smooth, small/ large, bitter/ sweet. They also develop their ability to see patterns and make decisions based on similarity and difference. All of this previous development has brought the child to a maturity of mind and a readiness for the mathematics materials.

As such we have materials for counting up to 1000, understanding time, fractions, the decimal system, geometry and algebra that support the child’s natural interest in their world. We also recently took their interest in patterns outside and made an autumn leaf mandala with the 5-year olds.

Recently, recorded over a 2-day period all the ways in which children used mathematical language to each other, some whilst using the materials but most in regular conversation with each other. Perhaps you could begin to use the language of maths more with your child in your everyday interactions. They will love it. Please enjoy:

  • “I have 3 pieces of banana and two pieces of apple. That’s 5 pieces all together!” – child sitting at the snack table.
  • “I am 9th, you are 10th and Rory is 11th” child arriving in the morning.
  • “little girls use a small chair and big boys use a tall chair” – child giving a chair to a younger child.
  • “1000 is so big” – child holding the thousand cube in the decimal system materials
  • “When I was 3 I couldn’t do it, now that I’m 3 and ¾ I can do it” child completing the continents puzzle map.
  • “I drawed a circle” – child drawing on paper
  • “ an ovoid looks like an egg” – child working with the geometric solids.
  • “the long rod is as tall as me” – child using the red rods.
  • “6 + 4 is 10 AND 7 + 3 is 10!” child playing with all the ways to make ten.