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Montessori in a Minute: The Fifth Great Lesson (The History of Numbers)

The Montessori Great Lessons

The Montessori curriculum teaches that the world is a place of purpose. At the elementary grade levels, usually between age 6 and 12, Dr. Maria Montessori describes this as the Second Plane of Development. At this stage, children are wired to recognize patterns and can understand how each particle, substance, species, and event is connected or interdependent.


Montessori’s “Five Great Lessons,” are foundational lessons introduced in an age-appropriate way for elementary classes and retold with more detail every year. They start with the coming of the universe and end with the history of numbers. Let’s take a closer look at the Fifth Lesson.


The Fifth Great Lesson: The History of Numbers

The fifth cosmic lesson reveals an innovative method for students: mathematics. How humans use numbers impacts everything. Obviously, our ability to count, tell time, and code on the internet are the outcomes. However, by understanding numbers, humans can investigate all that has come before us and even hypothesize about our future. Each grade level travels through time and discusses the many different number systems used throughout history including today’s decimal system.


Montessori students learn that humans did not always use numbers. Early civilizations were quite limited in their language to quantify everything around them. Many groups had only three categories in their numeric system: “one,” “two,” and “more than two.” Teachers prompt students to imagine how they would navigate their day-to-day life with only those three phrases. Today, it is nearly impossible to talk in that context. However, our wise ancestors knew they needed a more comprehensive system to keep accurate records, set up monetary systems, and more.


As our understanding of numbers has grown, so has the way we use them. Elementary classes learn mathematical concepts from fractions, decimals, multiples, squares, cubes, percentages, and probability up through algebra. They discover the work of famous mathematicians and their innovations we use today. This base of knowledge is the foundation for geometry concepts like congruence, similarity, lines, angles, shapes, solids, and other theorems. The study of numbers serves as the throughline for all five Great Lessons.


Here is a review of the first four lessons:

  • The First Great Lesson: The Coming of The Universe and Earth, introduces students to the universe and how it came to be.

  • The Second Great Lesson: The Coming of Life, teaches the dawn of life.

  • Third Great Lesson: The Study of Early Humans, connects students to their earliest ancestors.

  • The Fourth Great Lesson: The History of Writing, reveals how humans developed language to communicate with each other about everything around us.


The Montessori in a Minute Series

The Montessori In A Minute series regularly explores the unique benefits of Montessori philosophy, its fundamental materials, and areas of the classroom. For all parents at Hudson Montessori School (Jersey City, New Jersey), the school hosts Parent Education Nights every year to teach parents about the Montessori method and how the students learn curriculum components using a Montessori framework.


Contact us to learn more about Hudson Montessori School's interdisciplinary, theme-based learning approach to education, the Montessori philosophy and methodology, or how the school fosters the love of learning for children aged 2 to eighth grade.




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