Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Math, Math, and more Math

I hated math for years. I struggled my way through all of my high school courses. I got the only D of my career as a student in high school Geometry. I finally passed college algebra on my third attempt. I was an A student in everything else, but math was the thorn in my side.

Montessori has changed all that. I now adore math and my understanding of it is infinitely better. The materials are brilliant and convey mathematical concepts in a way that just makes them seem perfectly natural. The materials link ideas together and help children (and adults!) connect math to all aspects of life in a concrete way. The curriculum is just absolutely brilliant.

Today, a five year old student who has recently learned the names of all of the polygons in the geometric cabinet and worked with all of the short chains, explored the connections between them.

She started by building a short bead chain stair (above).

Next, she used the chains to build a point, an angle, a triangle, a square, a pentagon, and so on. The 100 chain was in use by another student at the time.
In the background, you can see the arrows on another rug, and the book of polygons she had made earlier in the week and was referencing as she built the shapes.

In the end, she put them all together.

And finally, just when she was about to clean up, the 100 Chain was returned to the shelf, so she was able to add a decagon.

It was a morning full of math work. One 5 year old child took out quite an array of math materials and made some interesting things. I was tempted to ask him to put some of the materials away, as he was using nearly half of the math materials available at once, but he didn't seem to be disturbing anyone, so I opted to stay out of it. He first took out the 100 chain and lined up ten bead bars alongside it. Then, he took the ribbon that we use on the "operations table" to separate addends from sums, or multiplicands from products, etc. and stretched that out beneath the chain. Next, he took all of the unit cards from the large number cards tray and spread them out in order beneath the chains. Then, he took out the number cards that we use for the number rods and cards and the cards and counters and matched those to the large number cards. It was very interesting to observe. I wish I could have heard his thoughts throughout the whole process.

A 4 year old student who has spent all of this week's work time on Beads Practice and Cards Practice continued. I have never seen a child so enjoy the process of composing a numeral with the cards and going to the bank to retrieve the corresponding quantity. His favorite part seemed to be writing the quantity afterward. He has spent a full 8 hours doing this in the past 3 days.

I'm eager to see what these math enthusiasts come up with tomorrow!

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