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Montessori Math – Number Rods Lesson


Well before the infamous Golden Bead material, we guide children to learn about numeration. Number rods are one of the first lessons in the Montessori Math sequence within Introduction to Numeration. Relatively inexpensive, this material will be well-loved with a variety of variations and extensions. 

Dr. Montessori believed that we are born with a natural propensity to calculate, be logical, reasonable, and create within our environments. The caveat is that without guidance and nurturing from and within the living & learning environments, the capacity to perform such thinking is eventually lost.

montessori number rods lesson

What is Montessori Math?

So, we conclude that in order to develop and function at the greatest mathematical capacity, a child’s experiences must lend to the innate mathematical mind.

How do we create such an environment? We must expose the child to concepts early in his life and wait for these connections to manifest later in her development. 

In other words, her brain won’t make the connections and be less ready for advanced learning and critical thinking. In a sense, the brain will reject this type of thinking because it is not prepared to accept more complex information. Montessori Math materials achieve these goals.

Unlike adults, children focus on the process. Adults focus on the product.  This concept applies again and again to Montessori Math.  Often difficult to observe and subsequently even more difficult to accept, especially by parents, the emphasis in a Montessori classroom is on the process, not on the product, of the child’s work.

Montessori math teaches children to focus on the process – the steps involved in getting to the product. The development of the whole child is paramount to direct academic development, the latter a result of a by-product of the efforts made to develop the whole child.

“Children display a universal love of mathematics, which is par excellence the science of precision, order, and intelligence.”       

~ Dr. Maria Montessori

All You Need to Know about the Astonishing Number Rods

Invite the child to do the work. Point out that a large mat is needed for the work.

How do you teach Number Rods in Montessori?

Below are two presentation approaches to teaching Montessori’s number rod lesson.

Montessori Number Rods – Presentation I

  • Carry the one, two, and three red and blue wooden rods to the mat, one at a time; carry horizontally with the index finger and the third finger of each hand supporting either edge of the rod.
  • Place the three rods randomly on the upper part of the mat
All You Need to Know about the Astonishing Number Rods
  • Sit next to the child, isolate the one and two rods directly in front of me
  • Give the three-period lesson: “This is…” Touch the one rod: “Let’s count it…” Touch the segment and stroke it lengthwise as you say its name.
  • Repeat with rods one and two
  • Use a lot of repetition with the 3-period lesson, I Spy and What’s Missing?
  • Mix wooden rods and repeat questions as much as needed
  • Once the child is comfortable with the one and two rods, introduce the three rod using the same pattern approach
  • Construct the stair at the top left of the mat with one rod on the bottom and move the four and five rods.
All You Need to Know about the Astonishing Number Rods

Montessori Number Rods – Presentation II

All You Need to Know about the Astonishing Number Rods
  • Continue presenting two rods at a time until the child can identify and count all the rods. Review each time I introduce a new set.
  • When the child can comfortably name them all, mix them up and invite her to count them and rebuild the stair.
  • Carry the rods back to the shelf, beginning with the long one and lining them up with the red segment on the left.

Montessori Number Rods Variations

  • Count around the triangle formed by the stair
  • Fetch game
  • Greater than/less than
  • Challenge the child to find two rods that match the length of a third rod
All You Need to Know about the Astonishing Number Rods

Extensions to the Introductory Lesson

  • Match the number of objects to the number of segments
  • Create your own number rods using other materials such as Unifix cubes or paper rectangles
  • Use rods to measure things around the classroom
  • Use wooden rods to make a pyramid
  • Integrate Montessori’s knobbed cylinders and knobless cylinders into the pyramid

Number Rod Resources

Next lessons…Montessori Math Number Rod Addition and Spindle Boxes

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