What is Montessori?

"In the words of the child -
I hear and I forget,
I see and I remember,
I do and I understand."

Dr. Maria Montessori

The Montessori Method is a proven and well-established educational approach that is fundamentally different from traditional teaching methods. It uses a child-centered approach to help children develop to their full potential, by providing them with an environment prepared for self-directed learning coupled with personal guidance from specially trained teachers.

The Montessori Method

How Children Learn

Children have a natural tendency to work. From birth to age six, they are sensorial explorers, constructing their intellects by absorbing every aspect of their environment, their language and their culture with all five senses. Then from age six to twelve, they become conceptual explorers. They develop their powers of abstraction and imagination, and apply their knowledge to discover and expand their worlds further. The Montessori Method works by taking advantage of the unique sensitivities and capacities at each stage of development.

The Prepared Environment

The Montessori classroom provides a prepared environment where children are given the opportunity to respond to their natural tendency to work. The learning materials are specifically designed to help them explore their world and develop essential cognitive skills. Children work freely at their own pace, and in the process develop self-confidence, inner discipline and a joy of learning, free from peer competition. The mixed-age setting also encourages children to develop their personalities socially and intellectually at their own pace.

The Montessori Teacher

The Montessori teacher plays a supportive but important role in the classroom. The teacher observes, guides and encourages children on a one-to-one basis. This is not done randomly as it might appear to the occasional visitor. Knowing how to observe constructively, and when and how to intervene is a special skill that the Montessori teacher has acquired through vigorous training. Where needed, the teacher would intervene enough to help the child along, but not so much as to stifle the child's innate passion to explore on his/her own. Naturally, a younger child would need more guidance, and as the child develops less guidance would be needed.

For more information on The Montessori Method, read or listen to Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook by Maria Montessori.


Montessori Method
Traditional Method

Source of Knowledge
The child learns concepts through Montessori materials.
The child learns concepts from teachers.
Styles of Learning
The child learns through all five senses, not just through listening, watching or reading.
The child learns by watching and listening.
Pace of Learning
The child can move on to more advanced work if he/she is ready and capable.
Pace is set by the rest of the class and the teacher.
Flow of Learning
An uninterrupted 3-hour work cycle allows the child to focus and concentrate on his/her own intellectual exploration.
The child is unable to concentrate on a particular project because the school day is broken down into numerous class periods.
Appeal of Learning
The child spends the day actively learning skills and academics that appeal to him/her.
The child spends most of the day engaging in group activities that may not appeal to him/her.


Outcome Studies

Montessori education helps the child develop a love of order, a love of work, a spontaneous concentration, independence and initiative, a spontaneous self-discipline and a sympathy for others that lasts a lifetime.

A U.S. study found that years after graduating from a Montessori program, children still performed significantly better than peers from a traditional education background.

Another study published in the journal Science (Vol. 313, Sept. 29, 2006) found that Montessori children were also significantly more likely to behave positively - not only at play, but also in conflict resolution.

Quotes from the first study:

  • "more than half of the Montessori sample [went on to attend] the four most highly rated and selective high schools in the [local school] system."

  • "attending a Montessori program from the approximate ages of three to eleven predicts significantly higher mathematics and science standardized test scores in high school."

Quotes from the second study:

  • "Montessori children were significantly more likely to be involved in positive shared peer play and significantly less likely to be involved in rough play that was ambiguous in intent (such as wrestling without smiling)."

  • "Montessori children were significantly more likely (43% versus 18% of responses) to use a higher level of reasoning by referring to justice or fairness..."

For more on these and other research studies on Montessori education, check out the Research section at AMI.


Notable Alumni

"The Montessori educational approach might be the surest route to joining the creative elite."

Peter Sims in The Montessori Mafia, Wall Street Journal

Google Founders Talk Montessori

Montessori is a proven and well-established educational approach that has been practised worldwide for a century. It has been credited with producing a number of well-known innovators (see The Montessori Mafia on Wall Street Journal and Montessori Builds Innovators on Harvard Business Review).

Here are but a few of the notable Montessori graduates:

  • Prince William and Prince Harry of the British Royal Family
  • Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com
  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google.com
  • Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia.com
  • Anne Frank, author of Diary of Anne Frank