Pippa Bettison, Director 3-6 Environment
In the preschool, once the child has a working understanding of 0-10, meaning that they can identify the numerals and understand the quantities they represent, we move on the decimal system. This is the foundation of an understanding of mathematics.
The real beauty of Montessori is that we have clear, concrete representations of each category. The children can see and hold and therefore understand the difference between a unit, a ten, a hundred and a thousand. There it is in front of them to manipulate and explore. They can clearly see that the unit is the building block of all the other categories and how they are put together to make the next higher category – a ten is made of ten units in a straight line, a hundred is made of ten tens aligned side by side, a thousand is made of ten hundreds piled each above the previous.
One of the aspects of this that is particularly ingenious, is that when put together in this way, they see a concrete representation of a number squared (in this case ten tens makes a square of one hundred and there is the square in front of their eyes) and cubed (ten hundreds piled vertically makes a cube)
Once the child can confidently identify these categories, we play the Decimal System Game. Children of this age are fascinated by large numbers and it is a great favourite. In this game, we are aiming towards becoming familiar and comfortable with the decimal system, but at the same time the child experiences movement (back and forth to the shelf to fetch the materials) focus and memory (can I recall what I am supposed to collect and can I bring those amounts correctly?), order and problem solving.
All of this is carried out in a fun and engaging way, whilst challenging the child’s abilities. A beginner at this game will be asked to bring a single category at a time of quantity only. A more experienced child will be able to bring 2-3 categories, together with the matching symbols for the quantities. The ultimate skill is the ability to bring 4 different categories and their corresponding symbols.
This is a big work and a great source of pride for the child, when after months of practice they experience success through dedication and application.