Sensorial materials are naturally one of the materials that a child loves and gravitates towards in a Montessori classroom. Who doesn’t love to test their hearing, like the boy in the picture just to the left? (He is shaking each cylinder to determine which cylinder sounds go together.) Or their sense of touch, like the girl? (She is touching each material and to determine temperature, from cool to warm.) One of the first “pictures” of my son, John, was of him sucking his thumb via sonogram. Children learn early that their senses are more than just comforting, they are incredibly informative. Through repetition, the Montessori child is able to differentiate between the slightest differences and variations in the world around them. But how? What do those materials look like? And my title mentions math…too good to be true?
The Montessori Sensorial materials isolate one specific sense at a time. For example, see the pictures of the boys working with the Color Boxes below? The one on the left is a child discerning the primary colors of blue, red and yellow using the Color Box. You know he understands because he is able to group them correctly. The second boy is working with the Color Box 2, essentially the same exercise but with more colors. The last picture of the boy using Color Box 3 is demonstrating that he understands shades of colors. The box contains all the colors that Color Box 2 has but with 6 shades of varying hue for each one. As with many Montessori materials, the Color Box work is self-correcting. You know when you make a mistake because you can see it.
Sensory activities facilitate whole brain learning and children will be more successful academically in other subjects as they work with sensorial materials. Source #1
I have a soft spot for Sensorial materials because many of them are mathematical in nature. Almost all of them are in pairs (they learn to count by 2’s before they really understand what they are doing) and almost all of the materials are in groups of 10 (learning to work with groups of ten prepares our students for upcoming work in decimals and adding up into the 1000’s with golden beads). As a former Algebra teacher, I love that math is integrated in materials that most of us don’t “see” as mathematical. Math is just problem solving anyway. Starting off in this fun way makes the concept of math fun, hands on and visual from the very beginning!
Sensorial materials were designed so that:
- They isolate one quality that is to be worked with.
- They are self-correcting that allows children to make the corrections themselves.
- They are simple in appearance and aesthetically pleasing. This is intended to attract attention to the objects and allow children to manipulate the materials with ease.
- They are limited. The child is not given every color, but only a few.
- They are all what Dr. Maria Montessori referred to as “materialized abstractions.” Each material clearly and concretely demonstrates abstract mathematical concepts, such as diameter, height, width, length, area, and volume and are often organized according to a base-10 system that will be further explored in the Mathematics area.
Sensorial materials exercise the concepts of perception, observation, fine discrimination, and classification in our children’s cognitive learning, which also plays a major role in helping children to develop logic and concentration. Source #2
See the boy on the left? He is working with the knobless cylinders, which come in varying diameters but are all the same height. By stacking them one on top of each other, he is showing an advanced skill. If each pair of corresponding diameters are stacked incorrectly, the tower will fall down. The boy on the right is working with the Pink Tower, which varies in volume, from 1 cubic centimeter to 10 (there’s that base 10 again). It’s similar in concept to the knobless cylinders, but is more basic, teaching the concepts of big to small.
So what about the other senses? We cover them all in a Montessori classroom! From smell (grouping scents like cinnamon and vanilla in unmarked stopper bottles) to taste (food prep fruits and vegetables help our students contrast the texture of mangoes with bananas and compare the acidity of strawberries to oranges), we offer experiences to broaden their understanding of the world around them! Sensorial materials also teach them to problem solve…to really THINK about the materials so they can order and manipulate them correctly….while having fun doing it. =)
Sunrise Montessori Preschool has two locations in Round Rock. Interested in learning first hand what we can offer your child? Then book a tour on our website at Sunrise-Montessori.com or call us so you can discover why Sunrise Montessori Preschool is where YOUR family belongs!