Over the years I’ve been fortunate to talk with Montessori alumni who have come back to visit. Often I will ask about their proficiency in mathematics, as it’s become quite commonplace for me to hear, “Yes, math was always easy for me, even when I was no longer in a Montessori classroom.”
I still remember one former student (then in high school calculus) who had come back to observe for a morning, and he said to me, “I had a revelation today.”
“Really?” I asked. “What was that?”
“I always wondered why I think of fives as ‘blue’, and now I know.”
The Montessori bead cabinet organizes quantities into colors. One is red, two is green, three is pink, four is yellow, five is blue, and so on, all the way to ten. Children lay out the beads, learning to count all the way to 1000, skip counting by the aforementioned numbers, even receiving a primer on squares and cubes. All of this, mind you, before first grade.
Is it just my imagination that Montessori preschool kids do better in math in their later years than those who have not had that training when they were young?
Well, recent evidence now supports this hypothesis, that preschool success in math translates to future success in the lower elementary grades. A study from Germany looked at children from first through third grade, and researchers found that children’s mathematical skills in later years were predicted by the skills acquired in their preschool years. This may seem self-evident. It’s also quite complicated. The study also looked at the socio-economic status of the families and found this was a factor as well.
And that also seems unsurprising. So many factors determine how our children will do in school. Genetics, school quality, parenting, income level, are just a few to mention. However, even controlling for all the above variables, Dr. Angeline Lillard showed that Montessori kindergartners outperformed their peers in mathematics. And as the German study shows, success in kindergarten means greater success at the elementary level. In sum, the more we can recognize the value of Montessori education and its approach to learning, the more children at all income levels will succeed. And succeed. And succeed. For many years to come.
[CTA 2016-17 Enrollment Packet]