Who is Maria Montessori?

Maria Montessori was the first woman physician in Italy. Through her medical work, she became interested in the development of learning abilities in young children. In 1907, Dr. Montessori established her first children’s house, the Casa Dei Bambini, for the children of working families in Rome. Using scientific observation and experimentation she created educational methods with the children’s developmental needs in mind. She observed children to be happiest and most satisfied when they concentrated on tasks that helped fulfill their drive toward independence. Dr. Montessori refined her method of teaching by adapting and expanding on the research of other great psychologists and philosophers such as Jean Piaget, Anna Freud, and John Dewey. In her later years she expanded her ideas to encompass infants, elementary and teenage children.

"The child has one intuitive aim: his self-development. He desperately wants to develop his inner resources and his abilities to cope with a strange, complex world. He wants to do and learn and see for himself, and not through the eyes of an adult. The child who accomplishes independence moves into harmony with the rest of his world. He becomes a full person."

– Dr. Maria Montessori

The Montessori System of Education

It is a philosophy of education based on the child’s innate ability to develop himself at his own pace in a non-competitive environment. The child follows his own interest by selecting materials to manipulate and experiment with from the various areas of the classroom. Rather than “teaching” the child concepts, an environment is designed to stimulate the child’s interest and facilitate her comprehension and coordination skills spontaneously with little of no adult intervention. One of the teacher’s goals is to set each child up for success by suggesting material in which the child is skillfully able. By building upon a series of successes, a child gains self-confidence and a love for learning.

Sensitive Periods

Children pass through phases in which their ability to acquire new skills is at a peak. Montessori observed several sensitive periods in the young child’s life: a need for order in the environment, use of the hand, development of movement, development of speech, a fascination with the minute details of objects, and a time of social interest. Elementary children, who are in an intermediate period, love to memorize and increase powers of reasoning. Teenage children, in a period of great physical and emotional change, have an intense interest in social action and relationship.

The Environment

Montessori considered her emphasis on the environment a unique element of her method. The "prepared environment" is a place where the child can learn independence by doing things for himself without the immediate help of adults. It is a place of beauty with child-sized furnishings, carefully structured and ordered by an adult to enhance the child’s freedom. The environment includes:

Practical Life

The daily living exercises develop order, concentration, coordination and independence.


These activities enhance the five senses. Through the use of special materials, the child’s classifying powers become more refined. Awareness of the world is heightened as he experiments with shapes, color, sound, volume, taste, size, smell, and touch.


The classroom provides opportunities for oral communication skills by using stories, poems, dramatics, and vocabulary enrichment. Exercises such as phonics, reading, creative writing and grammar are introduced as the child is ready.


Using manipulative materials the child is introduced to counting, numerals, the decimal system, concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication and divisions, as well as fractions, vocabulary and beginning math facts.


The child is introduced to the universe and all of its aspects through geography, natural science, and geometry.


Individual schools may develop programs of music, movement, physical education, history, foreign language and the use of good communication skills.