How I Taught My Kids Addition With This Genius Montessori Approach (They Love It!)

The Montessori Method, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, is a child-centered educational approach known for its focus on fostering independence, respect for a child’s natural psychological development, and hands-on learning. Its uniqueness lies in the belief that children learn best in an environment where they can discover concepts at their own pace.

Montessori Education in Mathematics

When it comes to teaching mathematics, and specifically addition, the Montessori Method shines by turning abstract concepts into tangible, understandable experiences. This approach is especially beneficial in early childhood, as it aligns with their sensorial learning style.

Montessori Mathematics in Early Childhood (Ages 3-6)

In Montessori education, the early years are crucial for setting the foundation in mathematics. This period focuses on concrete, sensorial experiences that make abstract concepts like numbers and counting tangible and comprehensible for young children.

  1. Number Recognition: In the Montessori approach, number recognition is initiated through tactile materials like sandpaper numbers. Children trace these numbers with their fingers, engaging multiple senses to embed the concept deeply. This method makes the abstract idea of numerical symbols concrete and relatable. Recognizing numbers is fundamental for learning addition as it lays the groundwork for understanding the basic language of mathematics.
  2. Linear Counting: Montessori children learn to count linearly using materials such as number rods and bead chains. This approach reinforces the understanding of quantity and its association with numerical symbols, helping children comprehend what each number represents. Linear counting is crucial for addition, teaching children to view numbers as a sequence and understand how they combine to form larger numbers.
  3. Skip Counting: Utilizing tools like bead chains, children in a Montessori setting practice skip counting by twos, threes, fives, and so on. Skip counting enhances a child’s ability to add larger numbers efficiently and sets the stage for understanding multiplication as a form of repeated addition.

Montessori Mathematics in Elementary Years (Ages 6-12)

As children transition to elementary years, the focus shifts to more complex concepts, while still building on the concrete experiences of early childhood:

  1. Decimal System: As children progress to Montessori’s elementary years, they are introduced to the decimal system using Golden Beads. These tangible materials allow children to handle units, tens, hundreds, and thousands, facilitating a deep understanding of the place value system. This hands-on experience is essential in making abstract concepts like the decimal system accessible, providing a solid foundation for complex mathematical operations, including addition and subtraction.
  2. Passage to Abstraction: In these later years, Montessori students transition from concrete materials to abstract mathematical concepts. Tools such as the Stamp Game and Bead Frame enable children to perform arithmetic operations in a more abstract manner. This gradual shift from physical manipulation to mental operations is a crucial development in mathematical cognition, ensuring that children deeply understand and retain mathematical concepts as they progress in their learning journey.

Why Montessori for Teaching Addition

  1. Building a Strong Foundation: The Montessori approach to addition begins with these foundational concepts. By understanding numbers and quantities through concrete materials, children develop a deeper and more intuitive understanding of addition.
  2. From Concrete to Abstract: In Montessori, addition is first taught using physical objects and tools, then gradually moves towards abstract methods like mental math, ensuring a solid grasp of the concept.
  3. Tailored Learning Paths: Montessori respects that children have unique learning paths. This method allows each child to explore addition and other mathematical concepts at their own pace, reducing pressure and enhancing understanding.
  4. Encouraging Independence: Montessori’s approach to teaching addition fosters independence in children. By exploring and solving problems autonomously, they build confidence and a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts.
  5. Cultivating Problem-Solving Skills: Beyond memorizing facts, Montessori teaches children to understand the reasoning behind addition. This method develops critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.

The Role of the Parent in Montessori Education

In a home setting, your role as a parent is pivotal. You’re not just a teacher; you’re a guide and facilitator in your child’s educational journey. This involves creating a conducive Montessori environment, thoughtfully selecting materials that cater to your child’s current developmental stage, and introducing mathematical concepts in a way that sparks curiosity. Your approach should be to observe more and intervene less, allowing your child’s interests and readiness to guide the learning process.

This observational approach helps you tailor the learning experience to your child’s unique needs and pace, making the learning process both enjoyable and effective. As a parent, your patience, encouragement, and support are invaluable in helping your child develop confidence and independence in their learning journey, especially in mastering foundational skills like addition.

Step-by-Step Guide to Teaching Addition with Montessori Techniques

parent teaching addition to her children

Step 1 : Creating a Montessori Learning Space

Choose a space that is quiet, inviting, and free from distractions like televisions or busy household traffic. A corner in the living room, a section of the family room, or a dedicated area in the child’s bedroom can work well. Look for areas with ample natural light, as this creates a warm and inviting atmosphere that enhances focus and mood.

Furnishing with Montessori Principles

  1. Child-Sized Furniture: Opt for a low table and small chairs where feet can touch the ground. This could be a small wooden table with chairs or a floor mat with a low table. The furniture should be lightweight, enabling the child to move it independently if needed.
  2. Shelving and Storage: Use low, open shelving for easy access to materials. Shelves should be sturdy and uncluttered. Baskets or trays can be used to organize materials and keep the shelves tidy. Consider a small, child-height bookshelf for additional storage and display.
  3. Sensory Mat or Rug: A small rug or mat can define the child’s workspace and provide a clear boundary for activities. This can be especially helpful in multi-use spaces.

Choosing Montessori Materials for Addition

  1. Number Rods: Create or purchase rods of different lengths, each representing numbers from 1 to 10. Ensure they are durable and safe for handling by children. These rods can be made from wood or sturdy cardboard. Color them in alternating patterns for visual distinction.
  1. Bead Chains: Use strings and colorful beads to make chains corresponding to different numbers. These can be used for counting, recognizing patterns, and understanding the basics of addition.
  2. Counting Objects: Gather a variety of small, countable objects like buttons, pebbles, or shells. These should be safe for child use and stored in small, accessible containers or baskets.
  3. Addition Strips: Create or buy simple addition strips, which are visual aids for understanding the concept of adding two numbers together.

Decorating for a Learning Atmosphere

  1. Educational Posters: Select or create posters that are visually appealing and informative. These could include number charts, simple addition tables, or even homemade posters with basic addition problems.
  2. Interactive Learning Wall: Consider creating a section of the wall where your child can interact with learning materials. This could include a felt or magnetic board where they can place numbers and symbols.
  3. Natural Elements: Incorporate natural elements like plants or a small indoor garden to create a calming and grounding atmosphere. Studies suggest that greenery in a learning environment can enhance concentration and reduce stress.
  1. Accessible Art Supplies: Include a small area with art supplies like colored pencils, paper, and markers. These can be used for drawing mathematical concepts or creating DIY addition materials, encouraging creativity in learning.
  2. Comfortable Seating Area: Besides the main worktable, consider a cozy reading nook with cushions or a small couch where your child can relax and read math-related stories or work on puzzles.
  3. Learning Clock: A simple, easy-to-read clock can help children start to grasp the concept of time, which is a fundamental aspect of understanding numerical concepts.

Organizational Tips

  1. Labeling: Label shelves and baskets with words or pictures to help your child find and put away materials independently, fostering organizational skills.
  2. Rotation of Materials: Regularly rotate materials to maintain interest. This keeps the learning environment dynamic and responsive to your child’s evolving interests and abilities.
  3. Child’s Artwork Display: Dedicate a space for displaying your child’s work, which can include mathematical drawings or charts they have created. This gives a sense of pride and ownership of their learning space.

Incorporating these detailed elements into your Montessori learning space at home will create an environment that not only facilitates learning addition but also nurtures a broader love for learning and exploration.

Step 2 : Transforming Addition from Theory to Practice

Start with Concrete Materials

Begin with simple everyday items like beads, buttons, or small stones. For a start, use small quantities (e.g., 1 to 5). Create two groups of these items and have your child count each group separately. Then, guide them to combine the groups and count the total number of items. This activity helps them visually and physically see how two smaller groups form a larger one when combined.


  • Use colorful and varied objects to maintain interest.
  • Repeat the activity with different quantities and objects to solidify the concept.

Introduce Number Rods

The Montessori Number Rods are a fantastic tool for visualizing addition. Each rod corresponds to a number from 1 to 10, with alternating colors for each unit. Start by demonstrating simple addition: place a rod representing 3 and another representing 2 side by side. Then, find a rod that matches their combined length (in this case, 5). Let your child experiment with combining different rods to see what new numbers they form.


  • Encourage your child to explore and make discoveries with the rods.
  • Reinforce the concept by asking questions like, “What two rods did we use to make the number 5 rod?”

Use Symbolic Representation

Once your child is comfortable with the number rods, introduce number cards. Lay out a simple addition equation using the cards (e.g., 3 + 2 =). Have your child find the rods that correspond to each number, combine them, and then select the correct sum in number card form. This bridges the gap between concrete and abstract representation.


  • Make sure the transition from concrete materials to symbolic representation is gradual.
  • Use clear, simple fonts and uncluttered cards for clarity.

Gradual Increase in Complexity

As your child gains confidence, introduce larger numbers and create more complex equations. Gradually reduce the reliance on concrete materials, encouraging mental calculations. You can start using blank cards where they can write down the numbers themselves.


  • Monitor your child’s progress and only increase complexity based on their comfort level.
  • Use real-life examples to show how addition is used in everyday situations.

Consistent Practice and Reinforcement

Regular practice is crucial for mastering addition. Incorporate addition exercises into everyday activities. For example, while grocery shopping, ask your child to add up the number of apples you’re buying or let them help you measure ingredients for cooking by adding quantities.


  • Keep the activities fun and varied to maintain interest.
  • Praise efforts and progress to encourage continued engagement and learning.

Best Montessori Materials and Activities for Teaching Addition

Selecting the right Montessori materials and activities is key to effectively teaching addition. These resources are crafted to engage children at various developmental stages, enabling them to understand and enjoy the process of learning addition. The following chart presents a carefully chosen array of materials and activities, each contributing uniquely to the child’s grasp of addition concepts through hands-on experience.

Material Name Concept Description Benefits Age Range
Sandpaper Numbers Number Recognition Numbers made of sandpaper, allowing tactile tracing. Helps children associate the physical feel of a number with its symbol, laying the foundation for number recognition. 2-4 years
Spindle Boxes Number Recognition, Linear Counting Boxes with compartments and spindles for counting and sorting. Encourages understanding of numbers and basic addition through grouping and sorting objects. 3-6 years
Number Rods Linear Counting, Arithmetic Rods divided into colored segments representing different numbers. Introduces basic arithmetic concepts and number relationships through visualization and manipulation. 3-6 years
Cards and Counters Linear Counting, Arithmetic Paired cards and counters for matching and counting activities. Enhances understanding of odd and even numbers, and basic addition concepts through counting and matching. 3-6 years
Bead Stair and Bars Skip Counting, Arithmetic Color-coded beads and bars representing numbers from 1 to 10. Ideal for visualizing and performing simple addition problems; aids in developing a concrete understanding of numbers. 4-7 years
Golden Beads Decimal System, Arithmetic Sets of individual beads, strings of 10 beads, squares of 100, and cubes of 1000 to represent numbers. Introduces the decimal system and basic addition concepts; visually and tactilely reinforces number sense. 3-6 years
Addition Strip Board Arithmetic A board with numbered strips used to visualize and practice addition facts. Reinforces memorization of addition facts; demonstrates how two numbers add up. 5-9 years
Addition Snake Game Arithmetic A set of colored bead chains used to create visual patterns representing addition. Makes addition fun and interactive; enhances understanding of addition combinations. 4-7 years
Hundred Board Skip Counting, Arithmetic A board with 100 squares and a set of numbered tiles. Helps in recognizing number patterns and sequences; reinforces addition concepts. 4-9 years
Teens and Tens Board Decimal System, Arithmetic Boards designed to teach the teen numbers and the concept of tens. Assists in understanding the decimal system and the concept of place value in numbers. 5-7 years
Fraction Circles Passage to Abstraction, Arithmetic Circular insets divided into fraction pieces. Illustrates how parts make up a whole; indirectly supports addition concepts through fractions. 6-12 years
Decimal Materials Decimal System, Advanced Arithmetic Beads and cards representing units, tens, hundreds, and thousands. Introduces higher order addition and the decimal system; bridges gap between basic addition and complex concepts. 7-12 years


Montessori Materials and Resources for Addition

1. DIY Options

Creating Number Rods: You can easily make your own Montessori Number Rods. Start with ten wooden dowels or sticks of different lengths (from 10 cm to 100 cm, increasing by 10 cm each time). Paint each rod with alternating colors for each 10 cm segment. This helps children visually differentiate the lengths and, consequently, the numbers they represent.

Making Beads for Counting: For bead chains, use sturdy strings and a variety of colorful beads. You can create sets of bead chains corresponding to numbers. For example, a chain of five beads for the number five. These homemade beads are excellent for hands-on addition activities.


  • Use non-toxic paint and ensure all materials are safe for children.
  • Involve your child in the making process. This can be a fun and educational activity in itself.

2. Printable Resources

Finding Quality Printables: Online platforms like Teachers Pay Teachers, Montessori Print Shop, or even Pinterest offer a range of printable Montessori materials. Look for number cards, addition strips, and simple worksheets designed in the Montessori style – clear, minimal, and straightforward.

Utilizing Printables: Print out number cards and simple addition problems. Laminate them for durability. These resources can be an excellent bridge between concrete materials and more abstract arithmetic.


  • Choose printables that are visually appealing and easy to understand.
  • Regularly update and add new materials to keep the learning experience fresh and challenging.

3. Montessori Apps and Online Tools

Selecting Apps: There are several apps available that are designed with Montessori principles in mind. These include “Montessori Numbers” for learning numbers and basic arithmetic, and “DragonBox Numbers,” which offers a more game-like experience while teaching math.

Incorporating Digital Tools: Use these apps as a supplementary tool alongside physical materials. They can be especially effective for children who are more responsive to digital learning formats.


  • Limit screen time according to your child’s age and attention span.
  • Engage with your child during their use of these apps to make it an interactive learning experience.

Beyond Addition – Preparing Your Child for More Advanced Math Concepts

Understanding the connection between addition and other mathematical operations is pivotal for children as they progress in their mathematical learning. Recognizing that addition and subtraction are interrelated helps children comprehend that mathematical operations are interconnected rather than isolated concepts.

Connecting Addition to Other Concepts

From Addition to Subtraction

  • Why It’s Important: Understanding the relationship between addition and subtraction is crucial as it forms the basis for more complex mathematical operations. It helps children realize that numbers and mathematical operations are not isolated concepts but interconnected.
  • How to Teach: Use Montessori materials like the number rods and bead bars to visually demonstrate this relationship. For instance, if 7 is made by adding 4 and 3, then taking 3 away from 7 leaves 4. This visual and tactile method helps children grasp the concept of subtraction as the inverse of addition.
  • Montessori Materials: Golden beads and strip boards can also be effective. Set up an addition problem and then show how taking away a certain number leads to a subtraction problem.

Introduction to Multiplication and Division

  • Building Upon Addition: Explain multiplication as repeated addition (e.g., 3 x 4 is the same as 4 + 4 + 4). This helps in transitioning smoothly from addition to multiplication.
  • Transition to Division: Similarly, introduce division as repeated subtraction or sharing equally. For instance, dividing 12 by 4 can be visualized as evenly distributing 12 objects into 4 groups.
  • Utilizing Montessori Materials: Bead bars are particularly useful here. They can visually demonstrate how several groups of the same number of beads (multiplication) or dividing a long bead bar into shorter segments of equal length (division) represent these concepts.
  • Progressive Learning: Start with smaller numbers and gradually increase the complexity as your child’s understanding deepens.

Introducing Word Problems Real-Life Scenarios

  • Contextual Learning: By relating math problems to everyday scenarios, such as dividing snacks among friends or combining items during playtime, children can see the practical application of math, enhancing their interest and understanding.
  • Creating Word Problems: Develop simple word problems that mirror your child’s daily experiences. For instance, “If you have 5 apples and I give you 3 more, how many apples do you have now?” This integrates addition into a real-world context.

Encouraging Verbal and Written Expression

  • Enhancing Communication Skills: Asking children to explain their thought process in solving math problems helps in reinforcing their understanding. It also develops their ability to communicate complex ideas clearly.
  • Tools for Expression: Encourage your child to write down their math problems and solutions. For younger children, this might mean drawing the problem or using a combination of numbers and pictures.

Building a Foundation for Future Math Learning

  • Positive Reinforcement: Celebrate successes, no matter how small, to build confidence and a positive attitude towards math.
  • Variety in Learning: Incorporate games, puzzles, and fun activities into math lessons to keep the experience enjoyable and engaging.
  • Building a Strong Foundation: A solid grasp of basic addition sets the stage for future math learning. Ensure that your child is comfortable with addition before introducing more complex concepts.
  • Alignment with School Curriculum: While Montessori methods may differ from traditional schooling approaches, the foundational skills your child develops will be invaluable in any educational setting. Understanding basic operations like addition and subtraction will ease their transition into formal schooling.

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