Northwoods Montessori Learning Tools
At Northwoods Montessori, learning tools include a variety of unique tactile and multi-sensory materials traditionally used in Montessori education to build developmental skills. Maria Montessori pointed out that “the hand is the instrument of the intellect,” referring to the critical importance of movement in the child’s process of cognitive development. The tools we show you here are just some of the educational materials used by the students in the three age levels of our program.
One of the most common Montessori learning tools, the Sandpaper Letters teach children the shape and sound of the letters of the alphabet. Sandpaper shapes in the form of letters are displayed on thin boards, with pink backgrounds for consonants and blue backgrounds for vowels. The letters are in their easily discriminated cursive forms, sometimes called the “Sandpaper Sounds.” The children play sound games with the teacher and then trace the letters, following the teacher’s careful demonstration.
The Pink Tower
The Pink Tower provides the child with a physical representation of the idea of size. Portrayed as a series of ten pink wooden cubes, ranging in size from one to ten centimeters cubed, The Pink Tower creates impressions of “large, larger and largest” and “small, smaller, and smallest.” These tools create a feeling of increasing or decreasing weight along with increasing or decreasing size. At the Elementary level, The Pink Tower is borrowed from the Primary class to illustrate the concept of volume. Elementary children build one or more of the Pink Tower cubes to reveal the concept of volume and to begin another chapter of their exploration of geometry and discovering the volume of three-dimensional objects.
Binomial and Trinomial Cubes
The Binomial and Trinomial Cubes help students understand and experience algebraic concepts. Inside the Binomial Cube are cubes and prisms that are shaped and painted to represent the cube of a binomial equation, such as (a + b)(a + b)(a + b) or (a + b)3 = a3 + 3 ab2 + 3a2b + b3. The Trinomial Cubes’ contents, carefully set out in rows, illustrate the result of multiplying (a+b+c) (a+b+c) (a+b+c). At the Primary level, these are presented as puzzles that challenge the child’s spatial organization. At the Elementary level, these puzzles are used to illustrate the process of cubing a polynomial.
Bead Bars are colored beads connected by wires to represent the numbers one to ten. They are connected into chains used for counting, to illustrate the principle behind the squaring and cubing of numbers. Individually, they are used to carry out multiplication exercises. By counting with Bead Bars in chains (or “skip counting”), children begin to see the relationships between the numbers, enabling them to remember series of multiples. This prepares them for learning multiplication facts. At the Elementary level, the Bead Bars are used for work with number bases, divisibility, and other concepts of number.
These learning tools are easily recognized by former Montessori students, perhaps because they are some of the first to be presented and commonly used throughout the Elementary program. They — and others designed by Montessori and some of her earliest collaborators — have become the iconic set of Montessori learning tools, teaching many basic skills and providing a basis for active learning that inspires and educates the Montessori child. We invite you to come and see these tools in action.