More on pre-schoolers and math concepts

Montessori Matters has said it better than I could in her response to the New York Times article on “new” research showing that young children can learn complex math. OK, so she too is having trouble keeping the snarkiness under wraps, but it’s hard not to feel frustrated when the educational establishment gets all excited about “discovering” something you could have told them any time in the last century. (I, personally, could not have told them, but Montessorians around the world would have been happy to share.)

I also have to add that I’m  disturbed (though not surprised) that the preschool math programs described in the Times article seem to do little to rethink the “okay, it’s math time, everyone sit down and listen to the teacher” model of teaching and learning. It would be fascinating to see a study comparing the (strictly math-related) outcomes of a Montessori preschool education and a Building Blocks classroom. Of course, it may be that both approaches are equally good at teaching children math concepts, but Montessori is about developing so much more than an early start on the three Rs: independence, kindness, concentration, curiosity, self-control. I imagine it’s in these areas that the real differences between the Montessori classroom and the Building Blocks classroom would show.

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2 thoughts on “More on pre-schoolers and math concepts

  1. Snarkiness can’t be avoided when researchers crow about “discovering” a 100-year old method of teaching math. 🙂 And you’re absolutely right: they still can’t get away from the “everyone sit down, it’s time for math, even if you’re in the middle of learning something else.” Applying a Montessori concept without re-structuring the entire educational system is about as effective and worthwhile as walking on a treadmill while eating a Big Mac and drinking a Coke.

    • superplexa says:

      I like your analogy, though I still think that success depends on what your goals are. If you plan to measure success by, say, third grade standardized test scores or, preferably, by some more useful assessment of math skills, then maybe these folks have done something very successful. I don’t know what their metrics for success are, but if I understand the “ed biz” (as Tom Lehrer calls it) correctly, I’m willing to bet that it was something fairly narrow like this. On the other hand, if you’re a Montessorian and think that education is about a lot more than traditional academic skills, then yeah, walking on a treadmill while eating a big mac and drinking a coke about sums it up.

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