There are still a few children who cannot get the concept of number zero (concept of nothingness). I was wondering what I could do to help them when my friend who owns another Montessori preschool in the locality told me to try the Memory Game. She gave me the main lines of the game and I looked it up in my Montessori book. I thought it would be a great way to get the children to understand what zero represented.So I prepared eleven small fabric envelopes and placed one of the numbers 0-10 (each number is written on a 2.5” by 2.5” laminated card. I placed these envelopes in a lovely box or basket. The idea is to ask several (no more than eleven) children to come to the rug and make a circle. If six children are in a circle for example, I would remove five of the envelopes from the basket but make sure that the envelope with the zero is included.
On the day of the presentation, I had 15 in our classroom. So I decided to create 2 groups of 7-8 children and we would play the Memory game with one group first and then with the other. Each group was formed with children of different aptitudes and developmental group, ranging from 3.5 years old to 4.8 years old. I called 6 children to come with me and sit on our rung in the circle time area. First, we went over the numbers 0-10 and I reminded them that 0 means “there is nothing”. Next, I handed an envelope to each child. I asked them to take the card out of the envelope and to carefully look at their number but not to show it to the other children. Then I instructed them to put their number back in its envelope and leave it at their spot in the circle. I explained to them that I would like them to go around the classroom and gather a number of items equal to the number in their envelope. They could choose whatever items they wanted. I instructed the children that if they had number 0, they were to go into the environment and act like they were looking around for a specific material that they wanted a quantity of. Ryan child got number 2 and went to get two flowers from a vase. Nessa got number 10 and brought me back 10 unit beads. Tori got number 0. She was very clever and followed my instructions very carefully, cupping her hands and closing them as if she was holding something. The other children were too busy to realise she hadn’t picked anything.
environment to get an extra one. There was a great buzz throughout the activity and the children were so eager to find out what each other had brought and if they got it right. They were so excited. Again, reinforcing where things are in the environment, the children were asked to return all of their items to the correct places on the shelves before playing again. The children begged me to do the game again. So we played it about 5 times.
· This provides them with a rare opportunity to touch materials that they have wanted lessons on but maybe aren't ready for.
· Too, if a child repeatedly picks the same materials that they haven't had a lesson on for this game, it reveals the child's interest in that work.
· This is also an excellent game to help the children become more familiar where materials are kept and to actively look at the shelves in all areas of the classroom
· Children corrected one another during the activity and work as a control of error. They work as a team.
This activity was meaningful in several ways and played a very important role in the Prepared Environment because:
· It incorporated new knowledge with old knowledge: we used the children’s knowledge of the geometric solids to help them see connections across the world outside.
· It reinforced the sense of order children gain from their Prepared environment : they were asked to gather items, they found what they wanted exactly where they were supposed to be and they knew where to put them back. Everything has a place in the classroom.It made meaning clear through the use of materials: they reinforced their knowledge of geometrical meanings in the presence of the real objects, enabling them to describe objects precisely.
As a teacher, it was very important for me to provide an appropriately structured environment in which children were free to make their own decisions and discoveries and only intervene when children’s behaviour was not constructive. Montessori was clear that any disruptive or socially unacceptable behaviour should always be checked, but she recommended doing so by redirection rather than punishment, such as giving the disruptive child something else to do. I believe I was successfully in doing so. First, I let the children choose what type of items they wanted to bring back, making the exercise exciting and the learning their own. I also didn’t fuel Jessica’s frustration by demanding her to follow the rules. I let her go and pick up the crayons and let her realize on her own that rules have to be followed during a game. The children reinstated the balance and order by correcting her. I also associated movement to learning: the activity I prepared gave the children the opportunity to move around, do a practical activity to learn about an abstract concept.
I am thinking I will put out a variation of this activity on the math shelves for the entire year, changing out the materials seasonally. Variations throughout the year could include counting pumpkins or leaves in the fall, white pom-pom "snowballs" in winter, heart-shaped beads in February, etc. I believe children learn best when there is diversity and this is why I will vary the memory game a bit.