Posts tagged Math
Watercolored Geometric Solids: The Three Period Lesson

The three period lesson is a classic Montessori technique for teaching the names things. When combined with geometric solids, you have a sure fire hit with younger learners.

All you need is a set of geometric solids like shown in the image and this lesson.

Period One: Name It

Say, "This is a sphere. Would you like to say the word 'sphere'?"

Emphasize the ssssffff sound when you say the word. Children usually do want to practice saying it a few times. It feels funny on the tongue.

Roll the sphere between your hands. Hold it up to your cheek. Pet it with the tip of your finger. If you want children to treat the materials as if they are precious, you must also act as if they are all made of the finest crystal.

Offer the sphere to the child. "Now it's your turn to hold the sphere."

Period Two: Play With It

Point to the sphere. Does the sphere roll? It does! Put the sphere on top of your head. Put the sphere on my elbow. Give me the sphere. Where is that sphere hiding? Oh! The sphere was in my lap! <giggle> (Nobody said that the three period lesson had to be dull!

Period Three: Recall - Can the Child Tell You Its Name?

Ask, "What is this?" If the child doesn't know the name of the sphere by now, don't worry. You just need more playtime with it. Put it away for now and get it out again later and re-do the lesson. No worries.

Period three is just about checking to see if the child can remember the name. If your child doesn't seem interested in the lesson, maybe now is simply not the time to teach the concept. Back it goes on the shelf for a few days, weeks, months, or even a year. It's all good.


Teach Respect for the Materials

Almost inevitably, children recognize the sphere as a ball, and they may be inclined to throw or roll it off the rug. Just before this happens, acknowledge that the sphere is definitely like a ball and that actually, a ball is in the shape of a sphere!

But our sphere is not a ball. It is special. Our sphere. It isn't for throwing. It's special. It stays on the rug. If it is intentionally rolled away or thrown, you may suggest that the work be put away in lieu of a sphere that is for throwing - a bouncy ball in the yard, perhaps?

These DIY Colored Beads Are Going to Knock Your Montessori Socks Off
This is so easy! Must do!!

Something very strange happens, though, when you make your own materials as opposed to buying them new.

You become oddly attached. You are much more likely to handle them with care, and you are more likely to use them with your children. The experience feels more authentic, linking the past with the present. You can close your eyes and envision Mara Montessori gently feeling her rosary beads and thinking, "Now could I use these as math manipulatives?"

It's the same. You, not Maria, are the guide today. DIY Montessori is not just a way to make materials more affordable. It is a process which deepens the teacher's own understanding of the lessons, a path worth pursuing for its own sake.

Making The Beads

Here's what you need: 

  • Pony beads (single packs of 10 colors each or one big multi-pack)
  • A roll of speaker wire
  • Scissors
  • Pliers (optional)

The Montessori colors are as follows:

  • 1 = Red
  • 2 = Green
  • 3 = Pink
  • 4 = Yellow
  • 5 = Light Blue
  • 6 = Light Purple
  • 7 = White
  • 8 = Brown
  • 9 = Dark Blue
  • 10 = Golden

If you are teaching in a Montessori classroom, I do recommend that you follow this color scheme because your materials to be consistent with the entire Montessori curriculum. If you are making the beads at home, the color choices are completely up to you - just make sure you are always consistent yourself.

Remember these supplies to make DIY Montessori colored beads. Super easy!


  1. Take the speaker wire and split the two ends in half. Pull a long single strand  apart and snip it off with the scissors.
  2. Make a knot in one end.
  3. String on your beads.
  4. Make another knot. Slide the loose knot down so that the beads stay rather tight.
  5. Use your hands (or the pliers if necessary) to pull the knots tight.
  6. Repeat for as many beads bars as you like on the same strand of wire. (I'd make about 20 of each.)
  7. With your scissors, snip between each bead bar. Wasn't that easy?
DIY Montessori Beads! I'm in! This method is the easiest and most durable out there!


Are you wondering where you're going to store these lovelies? Maria Montessori tells us a little story of how she herself kept the beads inside a single container, all mixed up. She eventually left the classroom to teach other educators in her methods. One day, she was visiting a favorite teacher, and to her surprise, the bead bars were inside a compartmentalized box! The teacher was embarrassed, for she had sewn pieces of cardboard together, and she was ashamed of her poor workmanship to contain the beautiful materials. She went on to explain how the children seemed to love the organization that the box provided. Maria was ecstatic, and today the beads in Montessori classrooms are contained in wooden, compartmentalized boxes.

Luckily for us, many DIY options exist at local craft and hardware stores that will fit the bill.

There's no need for us to sew our own unless we really want to. Long ago, I bought this plastic box at a craft store, and it has served my beads well for many years! The children do seem to enjoy the ease with which they are able to quickly select their beads.

I added number stickers to the box one year because so many of my children needed practice with number recognition. It's no longer pretty, and it's survived several moves from classroom to classroom and house to house, but it's where we keep ours today in our Montessori homeschool classroom. I personally think that they are more beautiful in a basket, but having them in order is a relief to the children. The next time I'm in another craft or hardware store, I'll be keeping my eyes out for a new box.

DIY Montessori colored beads - easy enough for anyone to make on a budget! - from Montessori Mischief

One last thing... You may notice that my 10 bars (golden beads) are also in the container! I like to keep some there for easy access. At the time that I made these beads, I could not find affordable golden pony beads! I chose the next-best color available, which ended up peach. They work just fine. In fact, my entire set of golden beads are peach! If you are in the same situation, I think a light cream color would be a nice option as well.

Watch the video bead tutorial herE

The Crow and the Pitcher: Science + Literature Lesson

“Growth comes from activity, not from intellectual understanding.” - Maria Montessori

When you enter a Montessori classroom, you will likely first notice how pretty the shelves are with the "works" displayed in simple trays or baskets. If you stay and watch, you will notice that many of these activities are remarkably high level.

You think to yourself, "These preschoolers are doing algebra? You've got to be kidding me!" Yup, Montessori was reaching high. But when you take a look at what the kids are doing and how it is presented, you realize that they are not writing equations and discussing the hows and whys or the applications.

"The Child Will Absorb What He Needs to Know"

The theory behind Montessori's method is that the child will absorb what he needs to know at the right developmental time by using his own hands. And yes, Montessori felt that very small children were capable of learning/absorbing much more than traditional educators were giving them credit for. It's a wonderful material, but you don't have to purchase a trinomial cube in order to expose your child to the mystifying complexity of math and science. Everyday experiments will work.

Enter The Crow and the Pitcher. This science experiment plus literature activity has always been one of my favorites to do in the classroom, and chances are you already have what you need for it hanging around your house, but you don't need to begin with an explanation of water displacement. Simply showing, doing, and having fun with it is enough at this age. Like my kids, yours will probably want to do it over and over. 

Teaching Tip: Do this experiment yourself first if possible - how high you want to fill the vase is largely dependent on the size and shape of your vase and your stones.


The Plot

An Aesop's Fable...

A CROW, perishing with thirst, saw a pitcher, and, hoping to find water, flew to it with great delight. When he reached it, he discovered to his grief that it contained so little water that he could not possibly get at it. He tried everything he could think of to reach the water, but all his efforts were in vain. At last he collected as many stones as he could carry and dropped them one by one with his beak into the pitcher, until he brought the water within his reach, and thus saved his life.

Moral: Necessity is the mother of invention. 

The Materials

  • small necked jar or vase (mine is from maple syrup)
  • stones (glass is pretty, but pea gravel will work just as well)
  • sponge & drying cloth (cleanup)
  • pitcher and funnel (optional)
  • tray (preferably with high sides)

The Protagonist

When I introduce this story, I usually begin by making a bird with my fingers. The children are drawn in. I don't speak. I make bird-like movements. I fly my fingers around and peck at things. I may or may not caw. 

When I have totally 100% got their undivided attention, I begin the story in a calm, quiet voice. As the crow flies, so do my fingers. When the crow is thirsty and cannot reach the water, he hangs his head.

He perks up with an idea! He hops over to the pile of stones and picks one up in his pincer grip. He carefully deposits the stone in the water. At this point, the children take over spontaneously and my acting part is over. I recede quietly into the background.

The Big Finish

When the water reaches the top, the children are always surprised. Their crows happily slurp up the water, and they keep dropping more stones in, and the water keeps spilling out. See why you need the sponge and drying cloth on hand? And the tray with tall sides? They will likely want to do it again and again. When they do, you have the pitcher and funnel on hand so they can do it themselves.