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From Concrete to Abstract

Updated: Nov 11, 2022

Children start as blank slates. Through the unconscious, Absorbent Mind, they gain memories and experiences which develop schemas, and concepts and create images in their minds. Children are scaffolding knowledge of the world around them through their senses. In the Montessori environment, we are creating rich experiences for children, so their memory banks contain many images and ideas to piece together and form concepts.

"Nothing is in the intellect which was not first in the senses" - G. W. Leibniz.

If I said to you "draw me a ziggurat", would you be able to do it? Some of you may know but if you couldn't, why not? It is probably because you don’t know what it is; you have not seen it, touched it or smelt it.

If I drew you a picture of it, you would be able to go into your bank of memories and retrieve information about what it might be. If I were to show you a picture of it, you may have a better idea of what it is. You might be able to imagine and visualise it because your bank of memories and experiences has become rich over time. The best way for children (and adults) to learn about a ziggurat would be to show one in real life, to be able to explore it with their senses.

This concrete exploration of materials through senses will be the foundation upon which later abstract thinking and knowledge will be built. Children need to be able to manipulate their environment to gain understanding.

- A Ziggurat

A diagram with thanks to Inner Sydney Montessori School

Concrete Material, Maths Golden Beads

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