Montessori Material Spotlight: Sandpaper Numerals


Montessori learning environments teach math by focusing on meaningful, concrete activities. Taking abstract concepts and turning them into tangible materials that children can experience directly helps to introduce mathematical concepts in a carefully ordered sequence that builds a strong foundation of grounded concepts. The Sandpaper Numerals help a child develop his understanding of the symbols of the numbers 0 through 9.

What are the Sandpaper Numerals?

Sandpaper numbers are the mathematically-focused friend of the sandpaper letters. Just as the letters prepare children to write the alphabet, the sandpaper numbers introduce the child to the names and shapes of the symbols that represent quantities. Fine-grain sandpaper cutouts of the numbers from 0 to 9 are each mounted on their own green wooden board. The distinct feel of the sandpaper and its contrast with the smooth board helps guide the student’s fingertips while they trace the symbols.

Sandpaper Numerals exercise

If a student has worked with the sandpaper letters before, he will quickly recognize the parallel structure of this activity: Using his finger, he traces each symbol while saying its name. The Montessori Guide teaches this exercise by example, tracing her finger along the numeral while saying “one,” then asking the student to try it. This activity is a way for a child to physically connect words for quantities to the symbols used to represent them. The student engages several senses as he uses his eyes, ears, and hands to experience each number. This multi-sensory physical engagement helps build strong memories of the symbols that will come in handy when learning to write them on paper! After mastering the Sandpaper Numbers, a child can start learning to link a number’s symbol to the physical quantities it represents.

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