Montessori Philosophy & Practice

AGE 1-3 YEARS—Physical Science & Math

The following is the text from this section of the 2009-2010 edition of The Joyful Child, Montessori from Birth to Three
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Physical Sciences

It is not enough for the teacher to restrict herself to loving and understanding the child; she must first love and understand the universe.
—Maria Montessori, MD

An interest in and love for astronomy and geology, sand and water, and all of science begins early. The first lessons come from nature—experiences of the sun and wind, playing in sand and water and mud, seeing the sun rise and set, watching the stars at night, visiting the seashore, and the child’s own collections of rocks and minerals.

First we give the child the rocks, sand, water, mud, oceans, clouds, stars, lakes, and so forth; and then we give the names. All of this experience and knowledge leads to a natural concern and responsibility at a later age because children love what they know.

I live in heaven. My home is a
sphere that turns around the sun.
It is called Earth.

—Dr. Maria Montessori


What is God?
He is length, width, height and depth.

—St. Bernard of Clairvaux

The foundation of a love of math comes not from rote lessons, but from joyful experience in seeing shapes and objects, in exploration with hands, and in moving through space. The formation of the mathematical mind, which will last a lifetime, comes from early, simple, everyday activities—collecting, counting, sorting, putting things in order, classifying, comparing sizes and colors, carrying heavy objects by hand or in a wheelbarrow, setting the table, and discovering relationships and patterns through these activities.

In the past, mathematical relationships were wondrous miracles, and so they are still for the young child who is discovering them for the first time. It is a joy for the adult to stand back and observe these discoveries as the child makes them.

Reciting one, two, three, four, five, and so on, is fun for a child, but not nearly so exciting as discovering that these words stand for quantities of anything—buttons, peas, spoons, family members, stars in the sky—and the realization that these concepts are used and understood all over the world!

If men had only used speech to communicate their thought, if their wisdom had been expressed in words alone, no traces would remain of past generations. It is thanks to the hand, the companion of the mind, that civilization has arisen. The hand has been the organ of this great gift that we inherit.
—Dr. Maria Montessori

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© Susan Mayclin Stephenson, 2010 (
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