A Day in the Montessori Primary Classroom: Part III

This is the third of four posts about the Montessori Primary Classroom at Montessori Preschool @ Copperfield.

Part III discusses the Montessori Work Period and learning activities in Math, Science, and Geography.

Our primary environment (ages 2 ½ – 6 years) is specially prepared to provide children opportunities to explore the natural world, acquire language, and develop socially and independently.   The Montessori Method teaches children to care for their environment, themselves, and one another with love and respect.

The work period is a time for children to exert their independence.  Primary students select their own activities and conduct their work in a defined space, demarcated by a rug.

Let’s take a look:


An early introduction to mathematics puts your child on the fast track in elementary school.  The Montessori Method is unique as it transforms abstract concepts into concrete and tangible learning materials.  The study of Math in a Montessori classroom begins with associating quantity with numerals.  For example, consider the spindle boxes, wooden trays divided into 10 separate sections – like drawer compartments – from numbers 0 to 9.  The child then takes wooden spindles and places them in each compartment with its corresponding quantity.  A challenge in this exercise is recognizing the figure “0″ and that it means “none” (i.e. no spindles are placed in the “0″ compartment).

In the Montessori philosophy, the child is guided by self-discovery. Typically, that is apparent by a desire to constantly be challenged intellectually.  Many of our students master skip counting, addition, place value, fractions, and even multiplication – based on their own interests in math.

Another unique material is the stamp game, which facilitates the process of adding multiple digit numbers.

One variation of learning place value is the Bank Game exercise – a collaborative activity challenging students to represent complex values in concrete and abstract terms.  Take a look at the below tray – you will see a concrete representation of the number 2433.  There are 2433 individual beads on the tray as well as cards expressing the value’s numerical representation.

Indeed, collaborative learning is an important part of the Montessori classroom.  However, the goal of collaborative learning is not to foster a competitive spirit.  It allows more experienced students to help younger students in the learning process.


As the first female physician in Italy, Dr. Maria Montessori had a fondness for the sciences.  She used scientific thinking processes to study the process of learning to improve early childhood education, and she recognized the need to awaken creativity and keen observation in children.

In the Montessori classroom, science activities help children categorize and understand their observations about the natural world.  From Zoology to Botany, students begin to appreciate and explore the complexities of the universe.

Consider the following experiment: Which objects are attracted to magnets?  The child independently conducts the experiment, classifying objects based on their attraction to a large magnet.  At the end, the teacher questions the child: What is common amongst all the objects attracted to the magnet?  The child may answer that all objects are made of metal.  And the teacher will follow up explaining that only specific types of metals are attracted to a magnet – notably Iron.

In Dr. Montessori’s classroom in Rome, children classified the shapes of leaves, learning the shape’s name and associating the leaves with their parent tree.  Even today, children follow a similar approach.  Or consider exploring the parts of various animals.  Students first classify animals as a bird, fish, mammal, reptile, etc. and they study what makes each classification unique.  For example, reptiles are cold blooded and an insect has a 3-part body (head, thorax, and abdomen).


The science journey continues in the Geography section, where children are encouraged to explore their homes and communities, the people that live nearby, and the earth they belong to.  In Montessori, the study of Geography begins with the two most basic elements on our earth – land and water.  The study of land is then divided into its various formations such as islands, peninsulas, and capes.  Water formations follow a similar classification.

After studying land and water, students begin learning the 7 continents and their associated countries.  In the below image, you see a student reviewing the countries of Europe.  Each white peg represents the location of the countries’ capitals.  A map exists for each inhabited continent.

Children also explore geological features like volcanoes and understand how people have adapted to the earth’s changing landscape by reviewing historical events.  During the study of volcanoes, students explore the life and culture of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii and the aftermath of the terrible volcano eruption.  Teachers further discuss how modern day Italians have adapted to Vesuvius – the dormant volcano which is situated nearby.

Stay tuned for Part IV, which discusses character education, recess and lunchtime.

Read Part I

Read Part II

Read Part IV

© 2012 Post and Photos by Montessori Preschool @ Copperfield

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