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I am a home schooling mom to three amazing kiddos.  We primarily use the Montessori pedagogy to guide our journey.  We also enjoy aspects of classical education and are part of Classical Conversations community. 

I write a Montessori column for Practical Homeschooling Magazine.

I am still a geek at heart and at times miss my former career as an Information Architect/SharePoint Specialist.  I don't have much free time but if I do, it is spent on comic books and video games.
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Using Math Command Cards

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The Montessori math approach was what initially caught my eye about the Montessori Method.  I love the way complex concepts are presented to young children in a concrete manner.  Progressing to elementary work has reaffirmed my appreciation of the math sequence.  Having a strong visualization of the mathematical process has provided a solid foundation.

While I trust the Montessori math sequence, I went back and forth on how I wanted to encourage practice.  I've seen various recommendations for giving my children problems to work with.  Some involved sitting alongside my child and crafting problems on the spot.  Others involved pulling questions from select workbooks.  Each method has positives.  At the end of the day, I decided to settle on command cards.  I know there are various opinions on command cards, but in my case, I wanted to introduce something that offered a wide range of work yet provided a level of independence.


If you are unfamiliar with command cards, they are simply cards that give a child problems to work with.  Each card typically contains one problem that is designed to be solved with a specific material.  Sometimes these are also called task cards.  Either way, these cards are used differently, based on the plane of development.  It's important to understand what your child needs at each stage.

At the primary level, typically ages 3-6, the focus is on the journey or the process of approaching the problem.  For example, a child who understands the basics of addition with the golden beads may choose a card that holds one addition problem.  The child can then use the beads to set up the problem and find a solution.  But at this level, getting the correct answer isn't the focus.  The most critical aspect is that the child understands how to properly set up the beads and attempt the process of addition.  This is why you may not see self-correcting answers available.  While you could have the child write his or her answers down, it isn't necessary.

At the elementary level, typically ages 6-12, the focus of the brain has shifted, making the destination as important as the process.  During this plane of development, a child can be expected to check his or her work and address mistakes.  Task cards presented for this age grouping should have some element of self correction.  Often, answers to these problems are written down in a journal and spot reviewed by an adult later.  While simple word problems may be introduced during primary, word problems become an important aspect of  mathematics for the reasoning mind.

At the primary level, I have found that the command cards from Montessori Print Shop fulfill our needs well.  They are simple and are generally divided into static and dynamic work, depending on the particular operation addressed.  MPS also offers basic word problems.  Depending on your needs, you may find that the math operations bundle is the most economical option.  You can place a few cards out at a time and allow your child to choose which they would like to work with.  There is no need to address them all, as the goal in primary is not complete mastery.



For elementary, I finally splurged on the complete operations set from ETC Montessori.  It was certainly an investment, but I was very pleased with the wide range of math topics and exceptions covered.  The set comes with an answer book so the child can self-check answers.  Task cards at this level are used in a more progressive manner, meaning I plan for my children to work through each of the cards in order.  All answers will be recorded in a notebook, which will allow me to come alongside and double-check the work that is being completed.  One note I want to make on the set is that it starts with a review and quickly moves through advanced topics.  It does cover a wide range of traditional math materials so you'll need some version of them to get the most out of it.




If you are interested in ETC Montessori cards, there is an option to have the cards printed in various manners.  If you contact the sales team, they will happily send you a sample of lamination vs. printed on plastic so you can see what works best for you.  The option to print on plastic was nothing like I imagined, and I ultimately fell in love with it.

Command cards certainly aren't for every family, but they have been a huge help for us.  I am approaching our elementary math work in particular with far more confidence.

Bess
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This post is part of the 12 Months of Montessori series.  I am honored to take part in it.  Please visit the links below.  There are fantastic posts on Montessori Math.

Easy Ways to Use Montessori Math on a Budget | Natural Beach Living

Montessori Math Subtraction Facts - Presentation and Printable | The Natural Homeschool

Montessori-Inspired Playdough Math Activities for Fall {Free Printables} | Living Montessori Now

Montessori Math for Preschool | Mama’s Happy Hive

Shape Sorting: Early Math for Toddlers | The Kavanaugh Report

Basic Montessori Math Materials for Introducing Numbers | The Pinay Homeschooler

Using Command Cards for Math | Grace and Green Pastures

25 of The Best Montessori Math Printables | Christian Montessori Network
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