Numbers one to ten are the first math materials presented. This usually happens around 3.5-4 years old. The materials in this area support the child in gaining a concrete understanding of the quantities zero to ten.
To begin, we introduce the concrete representation of quantity with the number rods. “The advantage of this material is that it is possible to present united together, yet distinct and countable, the units composing each of the numbers which they represent,” (Montessori, p. 299, 1949). We implement three-period lessons to support the child in understanding the language associated with the quantities.
The sandpaper ciphers or numerals are then presented. This material offers the child to physically trace the shape of all of the numbers. The child receives a sensorial, tactile, and visual experience when working with this material. We do not present zero until the child has more experience within math because we want the child to experience what zero means. We introduce the spindle boxes to introduce the concept of zero as well as the zero activity. The zero activity gives an emotional understanding when the child realizes they can’t jump zero times because zero means nothing. “This is not enough; they must feel what nothing is,” (Montessori, p. 303, 1949).
We then bring the number symbol and rods together through the number rods and cards. Exercises within this material gives an indirect impression of the four operations. The child receives an impression of odd and even with the cards and counters. The child further understands quantity and symbol with the memory game of number.
This is the first area of math the child is presented but she will continue to dive deeply into more work, most often moving onto the decimal system next!