Lessons in the classroom are comprised of particular Montessori materials that facilitate much of children’s work. These ingenious materials are self-teaching and, with instruction, inspire children to discover for themselves. The materials contain a built-in “control of error”, for example things only fit a particular way (think of a puzzle).
Montessori’s hands-on activities teach abstract concepts while empowering children. For example, the Early Childhood language curriculum includes Sandpaper Letters. Children trace the letters with their fingers while repeating the sound. This creates a memory built of sight, sound and touch. This challenges children to recognize letters before they have even developed the fine motor skills to hold a pencil. The math curriculum uses a sequence of beads as a foundation. Simple math concepts are learned using visual, tactile and abstract cues.
Designed to be sequential, each Montessori material prepares the child for the succeeding lesson, adding to the child’s depth of understanding. The materials are also multifaceted and can be used to teach a variety of concepts. For instance, the Binomial Cube is composed of 8 wooden blocks that fit together in a pattern representing the cube of two numbers (a+b). The cube is first introduced to children as a 3-dimentional puzzle with a recognizable pattern. In the elementary, it is later used to physically represent the algebraic equation (a+b)3. This is a great example of the unfolding of complex concepts using familiar materials.
Montessori materials are designed to create and enhance a natural progression rather than dictate a series of unconnected concepts.