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Early learning about spatial relationships boosts understanding of numbers. Psychology & Psychiatric (June 13, 2012), downloaded from www.MedicalExpress.com, June 14, 2012
Scientific research now validates what Montessorians have always known -- working with the pink tower and brown stair is much more than just "playing with blocks." Recent studies from the University of Chicago have shown that early opportunities in spatial learning contribute to children's ability to mentally manipulate objects and understand spatial relationships. Also, children who are skilled in understanding how shapes fit together have an advantage when it comes to geometry, math, and other skills important in Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields, such as reading maps and graphs and understanding diagrams.
Lillard, A.S. & Peterson, J., “The Immediate Impact of Different Types of Television on Young Children’s Executive Function,” Pediatrics 128: e1-e6 (Oct. 2011), downloaded from pediatrics.aappublications.org on September 18, 2011.
Sixty 4-year-olds randomly assigned to watch a fast-paced television cartoon or an educational cartoon or draw for 9 minutes were then given four tasks tapping executive function (self-regulation, working memory). Parents completed surveys regarding television viewing and child’s attention. The study found that just 9 minutes of viewing a fast-paced television cartoon had immediate negative effects on 4-year-olds’ executive function, causing researchers to advise parents that fast-paced television shows can at least temporarily impair young children’s executive functions.
Diamond, A., “The Evidence Base for Improving School Outcomes by Addressing the Whole Child and by Addressing Skills and Attitudes, Not Just Content.” Early Education and Development 21(5), 780-793 (2010).
Dr. Adele Diamond, Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia, is one of the world’s leading researchers on the development of cognitive function and a supporter of Montessori education. In this article she discusses effective strategies for advancing academic achievement, and advises: “Programs that address the whole child (cognitive, emotional, social and physical needs) are the most successful at improving any single aspect – for good reason. For example, if you want to help children with academic development, you will not realize the best results if you focus only on academic achievement (though at first glance doing that might seem the most efficient strategy); counterintuitively, the most efficient and effective strategy for advancing academic achievement is to also nurture children’s social, emotional, and physical needs.”
To be successful takes creativity, flexibility, self-control, and discipline. Central to all those are executive functions, including mentally playing with ideas, giving a considered rather than a compulsive response, and staying focused. This review compares research results from various activities and curricula that have been shown to improve children’s executive function, including computerized training, aerobic exercise, martial arts and mindfulness practices, and classroom curricula including Montessori education. In a comparison of curricula and curricula add-ons, the Montessori approach is shown to meet more criteria for the development of executive function for a more extended age group.
This longitudinal study of Milwaukee high school graduates showed that students who had attended Montessori preschool and elementary programs significantly outperformed a peer control group on math/science scores. “In essence,” the study found, “attending a Montessori program from the approximate ages of three to 11 predicts significantly higher mathematics and science standardized test scores in high school.”
Donabella, M.A. & Rule, A.C., “Four Seventh Grade Students who Qualify for Academic Intervention Services in Mathematics Learning Multi-Digit Multiplication with the Montessori Checkerboard,” TEACHING Exceptional Children Plus, 4(3) Article 2. Retrieved Aug. 29, 2011 from http://escholarship.bc.edu/education/tecplus/vol4/iss3/art2.
This article describes the positive impact of Montessori manipulative materials on four seventh grade students who qualified for academic intervention services because of previous low state test scores in mathematics. The article presents a brief introduction to the Montessori approach to learning, an overview of Montessori mathematics, and an explanation of the Checkerboard for Multiplication with related multiplication manipulatives. Pretest/posttest results of the four students indicated that all increased their understanding of multiplication. The results of an attitude survey showed students improved in enjoyment, perceived knowledge, and confidence in solving multiplication problems.
East Dallas Community Schools operates two inner-city Montessori schools that serve an ethnically and culturally diverse group of primarily low-income families. In over 30 years of using the Montessori approach to education, EDCS has proved that all children, regardless of race or income, can succeed in school when you start young and involve parents. In a neighborhood in which the high school dropout rate is over 50%, children who attend EDCS have graduated from high school at a rate of 94%, with 88% of those graduates attending college. A ten-year study of standardized test scores found that third grade students’ average scores were in the top 36% nationwide in reading and math. Even though many of these children start school without speaking any English, 100% of the children test as fluent in English by the end of the third grade.
The government of Thailand recently completed a study involving 600 5-year old children – 300 from Montessori schools and 300 from traditional preschools using the “6 Group Activities” method. The Montessori group significantly outperformed the traditional group in language development, and on knowledge of quantities, numerals, sequences, order, contrast, shapes, tastes, smells, and logical thinking.
Researchers compared Montessori students with students in other school programs, and found that 5-year-old children who completed the three-year cycle in the Montessori preschool program scored higher on both academic and behavioral tests than the control group. The study also found that 12-year-old Montessori students wrote more sophisticated and creative stories and showed a more highly developed sense of community and social skills than students in other programs.
Lillard, A.S., Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, New York: Oxford UP, 2005.
A comprehensive review of the scientific literature that demonstrates how current research validates Dr. Montessori's observations about how children learn, particularly with regard to movement and cognition, the detrimental effect on motivation of extrinsic rewards, the beneficial effect of order in the environment, and the academic and emotional benefits of freedom of choice. This book is available in the BGMS Parent Library, and more information can be found at http://www.montessori-science.org/montessori_science_genius.htm.
This study compared middle school students in Montessori programs with students in traditional middle schools, and found significantly higher student motivation and socialization among the Montessori students. “There were strong differences suggesting that Montessori students were feeling more active, strong, excited, happy, relaxed, sociable, and proud while engaged in academic work. They were also enjoying themselves more, they were more interested in what they were doing, and they wanted to be doing academic work more than the traditional students.”