Disclaimer here is that I’m not planning on full time homeschooling Teddy. This is for fun this year to fulfill developmental needs I’m seeing in him while he was too young to start school. So, this might look a bit differently than it would in a strict Montessori classroom. These are the ways we support this learning using Montessori and Montessori friendly materials here at home.
Montessori at Home: Introducing Number Symbols in Preschool
Once my toddlers have a solid understanding of quantity and are starting to more accurately count in context, I introduce the number symbols. I do this through the sandpaper numbers. I present them three numbers at a time starting with one, two, three. Then, moving up to 9. Zero I introduce on it’s own at the very end.
When I’m presenting these numbers I’m very careful to say, “this says four.” I always want to make the distinction that the numbers aren’t the actual quantity but a representation of that quantity. It’s a small distinction and I don’t go into other explanations with Teddy at this time.
Once I’ve introduced the number symbols it’s just a matter of providing some opportunities for practicing. While the sandpaper numbers are a great material, in and of themselves I don’t find that my children have reached for them a ton on their own. So having a few different materials to connect quantity to the symbols has been helpful. These aren’t necessarily materials to learn what to do with the numbers (not introducing operations) but work to help learn the language around the number and how much that really represents.
Montessori Friendly Math Materials to Consider for Early Counting
There are so many toys or materials that you could find to support a love of counting and math as you teach number symbols in preschool. Far too many to even list. So instead of listing them all, I look for a couple things when I am choosing Montessori friendly math materials:
- Concrete/Tactile: I want there always to be a concreteness to the work that a child can manipulate
- Control of Error: It should be pretty obvious if the child has the right quantity connected to the number symbol. I want to be able to remove adult correction,
- Connecting Symbol to Quantity: I want materials that reinforce the quantity and symbol together. The numbers alone are fine, but better if we can see what they mean.
For us, these specific materials have been really popular with Teddy at 3.5-years-old:
We will stay with the concept of numbers and quantity for a long time. Eventually I will introduce the concept of writing the numbers on their own, but Teddy isn’t quite at that point yet. Operations will come closer to 4 and beyond. I want to really make sure he is very comfortable with the number symbols before moving on.
Introducing numbers in Montessori is a big step for any child. It’s been a fun one to be able to watch unfold at home and these materials have really helped!