About Dr. Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori with a young child

Maria Montessori, the first woman M.D. in Italy, was one of the great pioneers in the study of the development of the very young. She has truly impressive credentials when, in 1908, she began her now famous method of educating young children. A background in mathematics, engineering and biology preceded her study of medicine. Graduated from Rome University Medical School in 1896, she was appointed Assistant Director at the Rome University Psychiatric Clinic. Her work during the next three years with developmentally disabled children reflected not only deep compassion but also rigorous scientific quality. She designed the special materials and scientifically prepared an environment she deemed essential for the meaningful education of her pupils. Dr. Montessori succeeded brilliantly and received world acclaim. Montessori believed she could apply her revolutionary ideas to the education of all children, and to this end she embarked on a program of intensive studies at Rome University. During the years from 1901 to 1908, Montessori studied philosophy and psychology.

Dr. Montessori began her innovative method with a group of children in the slum area of San Lorenzo, Rome. In a year, her success with these children was of worldwide interest. A major landmark in education of the young children was established. Between 1912 and the end of her life, she put her ideas into twenty-five books and pamphlets on various aspects of her education theory and practice. Dr. Montessori died in Holland in 1952 at the age of 82.

American Montessori Society biography of Dr. Maria Montessori 

The Montessori Classroom

Practical Life

This area of the classroom contains materials from everyday life, which are familiar to the child. The familiarity draws the child to the work. All of the materials are child sized to aid the child in performing the tasks successfully. Practical life exercises are designed to help the child develop independence, self confidence, coordination, concentration, and fine motor skills. The child naturally develops a sense of order through the use of the materials in this foundational area of the classroom.

Boy preparing a meal

Sensorial

Sensorial materials are designed to isolate and refine the senses. They help the child to organize and classify the immense amount of information received through the senses each day. The materials are didactic in nature and allow the child to learn from manipulation and experimentation. The child develops observation, discrimination, reasoning and decision making skills which helps her master her environment. The incremental differences in the materials are mathematically based and provide the foundation for more complex mathematical concepts. The Sensorial area is the heart of the classroom.

Toddlers learning about colors

Math

Math materials are specifically designed to help the child develop his thinking, reasoning and problem solving skills. The direct aim of the Math materials is to help the child work toward abstraction. The materials are designed with such precision that they allow the child to work with the concrete until she internalizes the process through tactile and visual contact and can work independently in her mind. The awareness of detail gained in Practical Life and the decision making skills she learned in Sensorial help the child refine her use of the Math materials.

Little boy working on a math problem

Language

Language materials promote the child’s awareness of the power of language and helps him develop an appreciation of the beauty language can express. The concrete materials help the child acquire language, they give order and form to the experiences necessary for language acquisition, both in reading and in writing.

Boy learning language

Cultural Studies

The Cultural area of the classroom encompasses a variety of subjects that are supplementary to the Montessori Method. The Cultural subjects include: Geography, Zoology, Botany, Science, Art and Music. Studying these subjects provide children an opportunity to explore and experience different worldly ideas. Geography helps the children understand their own culture and build an understanding of other cultures which helps them appreciate the differences between humankind. Science in the Montessori classroom gives the child the opportunity to discover everything that makes our world unique. The understanding of trees and plants is acquired through the use of concrete materials in the botany area of the classroom. Art and Music allows all children to express themselves in a safe environment where all are valued for what they contribute. This helps the children develop cognitively, socially and emotionally while building their self esteem.

Little girl drawing a map of the world

The Montessori Classroom

Intellectual exercises are made available to the children because of their interest in conscious constructive activities. Montessori is geared toward the experience of learning not product producing. They learn how to learn and experience the joy of learning that follow them throughout their educational career and their life.