How does the Montessori method help in aiding the intelligence of the child?

Maria Montessori based her work with children on her observations of their natural development.  Even in her first classes, children were doing things that traditional educators thought were not possible and many of these achievements were considered intellectual achievements, e.g., writing, reading and doing 4-digit mathematical problems.  Through her observations and experiments she realized that when children’s environments were prepared in a certain way and contained certain activities, when children were shown how to use the materials provided and when they were given the freedom to choose what materials to use, the children followed a very natural path of development, unique to each individual.  The spoken language of children was increasingly augmented in many fields of knowledge.  The spoken language provided was based on real sensorial experiences of the child; the aspects of the experiences were labelled with language. For example, after experience with many geometric shapes, they were given names.  She understood the relationship between movement and the acquisition of knowledge; that when a child can manipulate materials, this solidifies the knowledge they are gaining.

Also, with a multi-aged group a child can solidify their understanding of a concept by teaching it to someone else.  In a classroom that has 30-35 children with 2 or 3 adults (1 trained teacher) there are, in fact, 32 or 33 “teachers.”  When a child understands something, they are eager to share that understanding.

Montessori saw – and we all see – that each child is unique, that each child’s style of learning is unique, that each child’s need for certain experiences is unique. With this realisation we can tailor each introduction of material, introduction of a bit of new knowledge, to each child – rather than using a ”one style fits all” approach.  Coming to understand the unique learning style of each child is a gradual process and the fact that children are in a particular class for 3 years enables the understanding to be deepened and appreciated by the adult.  We come to understand just how much help each child needs; we come to understand when to leave a child to discover on their own.  Montessori said that “every unnecessary help is an obstacle to development.”  We appreciate and support every child’s level of independence, and this includes not just functional independence but also intellectual independence.  

Child on a mat working on a Montessori number rods material