Montessori Monday: The Fraction Materials
You've probably enjoyed any number of geometric drawings your child has brought home from his or her use of the Metal Insets. The Metal Insets offer children ten different inset puzzles, each set within sturdy metal frames and representing common geometric shapes. Children enjoy creating designs with the frames, while they are simultaneously building their fine motor control, aesthetic sense and handwriting skills.
The Fraction Insets build on the familiar structure of the Metal Insets, but rather than teaching shape and design, they introduce the child to concepts of fractions and equivalents. Concrete and able to be moved and explored by the children's hands, the Fraction Insets present ten different puzzles, each comprised of a perfect circle frame an insets in decreasing fractions, from 1/1 to 1/10th. By working with the insets, the children learn that there are quantities less than one but higher than zero, and they are able to being comparing these quantities by removing pieces from one inset and comparing them to another. Imagine being able to replace two 1/4 pieces of a puzzle to discover that you can fill the space remaining with both a single 1/2 piece or four 1/8 pieces. Children can interchange pieces between the frames as they discover how each sliver helps to create a whole.
Eventually, children will also be introduced to the written symbols for each fraction and will be able to begin mathematical operations with fractions, adding, multiplying, dividing and subtracting fractions independently and with materials that are self-correcting and beautiful. As a result, children explore math concepts in a more authentic way, internalizing complicated ideas from math earlier than they may even be exposed to them in traditional classrooms and with a deeper understanding of what the curious symbols of math really mean. Look for the advanced fraction materials, including the fraction skittles pictured below, in our Kindergarten and First Grade experiences.