This video is a beautiful example of how maths can be discovered by the child rather than taught by the adult. Emmeline asked Karen “What is 2 and 1?” If she had paused to think, Emmeline would have undoubtably answered the question for herself. But instead of pointing this out, or giving her the answer, Karen picked up on this interest as a moment to offer a new maths presentation offering the right level of difficultly. The result was 3 hours of joyful addition, part of which is secretly captured here. The moment when she says to a friend “I’m going to do the whole box!” is wonderful evidence of how children love to challenge themselves. At the end of the presentation of how to use the material, Karen planted a seed by saying “I wonder how many sheets of paper you will use? Do you know, once someone did the whole box.” Significantly, Karen did not wait for, or expect, a reply.
When I played back the recording for the first time, this quote from Maria Montessori immediately came to mind:
And so we discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher’s task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child.
Dr Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind