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Spindle Boxes – Learn a Montessori Math Lesson


In Montessori education, the spindle box is a didactic material used to introduce and reinforce the concept of numbers and quantity. It is typically used with young children, usually between the ages of 3 and 6 years old, as part of their early math education.

What is the Spindle Box in Montessori?

The spindle box in Montessori consists of a wooden box with compartments and a set of wooden spindles or rods. Each compartment in the box is labeled with a numeral representing a specific number (e.g., 0 to 9). The spindles are used to represent quantities.

The purpose of the spindle box is to help children understand the relationship between numerals and quantities. Here’s how it works:

  1. Numerals: The teacher or educator introduces the child to the numerals and their names, starting from zero and going up to nine. The child becomes familiar with the sequence of numbers.
  2. One-to-One Correspondence: The teacher demonstrates how to place the correct number of spindles into the corresponding compartment of the box. For example, if the child is learning the number “3,” they place three spindles in the compartment labeled “3.”
  3. Concrete Representation: By using physical objects like the spindles, children can grasp the concept of quantity in a tangible and visual way. This helps them move from abstract representations of numbers to a more concrete understanding.
  4. Grasping the Number System: Through repetition and practice, the child begins to associate each numeral with a specific quantity. They start to recognize the patterns in the number system and develop a foundation for further math concepts.

The spindle box is just one of many Montessori math materials designed to support the development of mathematical concepts in a hands-on and experiential manner. The Montessori method emphasizes active learning, independence, and self-correction, allowing children to explore and understand mathematical concepts at their own pace.

Spindle Boxes are part of Montessori Math Introduction to Numeration. Although gorgeous and reasonably priced, one of the best things about a Spindle Box is that you can make your own fairly easily at home with sticks, pipe cleaners, straws, etc.

Plus, there are many variations of objects to keep the work interesting is always a bonus.

Spindle Boxes - a Montessori Math Lesson

The main aims of this work are to guide a child in his learning to count and to introduce the concept of “zero”.


Montessori Math Spindle Box

Here is how I present the Spindle Box to a child:

Invite the child to do the work. Get a mat and spread it on the floor.

Presentation I

Carry boxes, spindles, and mat one at a time to the mat. Place as shown in the image.


“Would you like to learn how to use the spindle boxes today?”


Point the numeral one: “Do you remember what this is? Yes, it is one.”  Move through the numerals included in the box.

  • Count a spindle from the box & transfer to your other hand to place in the one: “One”.
  • Point to the next numeral and repeat the same approach, restating the quantity and finish counting each spindle into the box.
  • Go through five, at which point the child will be most likely ready to take over the work. If not, invite him to do so.

When all of the spindles have been distributed, point at the zero: “What is in here? Yes, nothing. It is empty because zero means none.”

  • To put spindles away, begin with section one and return them to the basket section by section. Count as I drop them back into the basket. I might also ask the child to go section by section to grasp the spindles and return them to the basket, counting them as they drop into the basket.
  • Return to shelf once all the spindles have been put into their respective sections.

Montessori Math Resources

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