Making your own Montessori maths materials

Until recently I hadn’t really considered how to teach Aaron maths. At the moment he is learning through play and experience with real objects, which is fine. I had a vague notion that somewhere along the line we would start introducing workbooks. Then I discovered a completely different approach whilst I was researching the Montessori method. Mathematics is full of abstract concepts. The Montessori materials provide sensorial impressions of mathematical concepts, beginning with concrete experiences and gradually moving towards the abstract. My geeky side was thrilled to discover the likes of wooden fraction circles, Pythagoras boards and long division pegboards.

I was browsing through some Montessori maths supplies online and wondering if I could possibly afford to buy one or two bits, when I suddenly had an idea. Why not make my own? Whilst some of the advanced materials are definitely too complex to make, the first few sets look fairly basic.

By reading through the mathematics section at Montessori Primary Guide I was able to work out which materials I will need to begin with. For learning numbers through to ten the main materials used are number rods, sandpaper numbers, spindle boxes and numbers and counters. I then looked up the materials on Absorbent Minds, which seems to be one of the cheapest UK Montessori suppliers.

Number rods are ten graduated rods marked in alternating red and blue paint. The cheapest set online was £20.39. I’m planning to make the rods (well okay, get hubby to make the rods) out of planed square edge timber, which costs £1.30 for two lengths from B&Q, and then paint them with acrylic paints.Number Rods

Sandpaper numbers are tactile numbers on green board. The shop price was £17.99. A sheet of hardboard big enough for 50+ tiles costs £4.88. Fine sandpaper costs £2.88 and I already have green paint.Sandpaper Numerals 0-10

Spindle boxes have numbered compartments and 45 spindles. These sets cost £33.59 to buy! For the boxes I will use two craft boxes costing £1.99 each. For spindles I will probably use dowel moulding at a cost of £2.56 for four lengths. Unfortunately they won’t be as easy to grip as the spindles shown here, but I couldn’t think of a better alternative.

Spindle Boxes 0-4 and 5-9

Numbers and counters consist of number cards and 55 circular counters, costing £15.59. There will be plenty of hardboard left over from making the sandpaper numerals for this. I was thinking of using large buttons for the counters but it works out quite expensive to buy that many, so pennies from the penny jar will work just as well.

Numbers and Counters

So that’s four sets of maths materials worth £87.56 for approximately £15.60! I have the feeling we’ll be making a trip to B&Q next week. I want to dive in and get started straight away, but it will have to wait as we need to borrow some of my Dad’s tools. There’s no rush anyway, as we probably won’t be introducing formal maths learning until closer to Aaron’s fourth birthday. If my DIY attempts are successful I’ll post photos and instructions!


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