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According to Gardener’s theory of multiple intelligences, children can acquire knowledge through different ways because they have different capabilities and competences. It is apparent that every student has special skills and learning needs.
However, teachers often fail to identify the capabilities of their students in part because of the conventional teaching methods that they use in kindergarten classrooms. The success of most education programs is attributed to the application of modern teaching methods. The teaching methods commonly used in well-organized education programs include project work, self-directed learning, literature-based reading, and problem-based curriculum.
Montessori education system emphasizes the importance of a well-prepared learning environment since it enhances high performance among students. Piaget (1970, p. 30) asserts that the development of intelligence and acquisition of knowledge is a continuous process. The facets of intelligence include analytical, creativity, and practical skills.
The primary role of intelligence is to facilitate understanding and invention. Successful learning is correlated with the incessant development of primary sensory motor actions among children. Thus, the more “practice a child gets with sensorial activities the higher a child will perform abstract mental operations”.
Young learners should be guided to generate ideas and to discover mathematical relations on their own rather than forcing them to accept other’s thoughts. Children should gain experience in using mathematical skills through regular practice. This helps them to develop deductive reasoning and neurological thinking, which is essential for their academic progress.
According to Nicholl (1998, p. 37), teaching efforts should focus on knowledge acquisition. An effective teaching strategy should facilitate the development of the learner’s character, emotional maturity, and wisdom. Nonetheless, the teaching methodologies used in most schools are ineffective because majority of students lack essential skills such as analytical ability and creativity, as well as, flexibility in thought.
In this regard, teachers should help their students to develop interpersonal intelligence. This will enable students to assess their weaknesses and strengths. Montessori (1995, pp. 5-12) asserts that infancy is the most important stage in a child’s development and learning because their interest to learn is at its peak. Consequently, educators must utilize the appropriate methodologies to maximize learning at the infancy stage.
It is against this backdrop that the Montessori teaching methodology focuses on developing young learner’s sensorial and motor skills during their early years. A Montessori teacher must focus on continuous improvement of their professional skills in order to facilitate better learning.
Teachers who are responsible for teaching above average students are aware of the fact that different strategies help them to meet the diverse needs of their students. Nonetheless, the statistics on students’ performance in mathematics indicate that a lot of improvement is still needed in teaching the subject.
The schools in the United States have been unable to improve the math skills of their students. Research indicates that the performance in math in K-12 classes in the US is lower than in other developed countries. Hence, there is a need to improve performance through improved teaching methods.
The foregoing paragraphs highlight the weaknesses of the conventional teaching methods that are used in most schools. Additionally, they highlight the importance of using the most appropriate teaching methodology in order to enhance learning, especially, in math classes. Most educators believe that the Montessori education system can help students to acquire advanced mathematical skills at the kindergarten level.
Consequently, the goal of this study is to gather evidence concerning the positive and negative aspects of using the Montessori system to teach mathematics in kindergarten. Concisely, the study will compare the Montessori system with the conventional education system in order to identify the model that best suits learner’s needs.
The main question in this study is: what are the advantages and disadvantages of adopting Montessori education as a method of teaching mathematics in a kindergarten? In answering this question, the study will attempt to explain how the Montessori system facilitates learning among children. Furthermore, it will compare the strengths and the weaknesses of the Montessori system with a regular mathematics program in order to determine the extent to which it benefits students.
The Essence of this Action Research
It is a well-known fact that students have varying learning needs, as well as, ability to learn. Students can differ significantly in terms of their approach to learning. The conventional teaching methods that are commonly used in kindergartens often mask teachers’ ability to identify their students’ unique learning needs and abilities.
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Consequently, the needs of some students are hardly met in regular mathematics programs. In this regard, it is necessary to identify an improved teaching method that will enable teachers to meet the learning needs of all students in their classrooms. This can be achieved through action research that evaluates the merits and the demerits of existing teaching methodologies in order to identify the best.
Thus, this study seeks to evaluate the effectiveness of the Montessori education system as an alternative method of teaching mathematics in kindergarten. This will involve comparing the strengths and the weaknesses of the Montessori system with those of regular mathematics programs.
The Setting and the Participants
The selected location for the study is a privately owned Catholic school in Campbell, California. The objective of the school is to model future leaders of the world. The school provides complete education that not only develops the mind of the learners, but also their character.
It offers a comprehensive content of art-based curriculum that enables students to engage in critical thinking, discovery of their world, and to overcome the challenges they face in life. The school’s teaching program develops the students’ character alongside their academic development. The objective of this strategy is to produce complete scholars who are able to seek the truth and to utilize it in their everyday lives.
The learning program used in the school promotes intellectual, emotional, and physical development of students in all grades. In this regard, the program provides the best setting for implementing the Montessori education system, which is the focus of this study.
The participants were drawn from a class that consists of 12-year-old students. The students are mainly from middle and upper-middle class families. Hence, most of them are from families with relatively stable financial backgrounds. However, nearly 5% of the families depend on financial aid.
Procedure for Data Collection and Analysis
Data will be collected from the following sources in order to answer the research question. First, I will analyze the results of formative assessments and evaluations such as students’ homework. This is an important source of data because it can shed light on the performance of students. Second, I will use observations in order to monitor students’ progress with learning in class.
Observation is an important data collection method since Montessori education requires little interference with students’ learning activities. The data collected through observation will be used to compare the effectiveness of Montessori education with traditional mathematics programs. Third, I will implement scoring rubrics in order to measure students’ performance.
Concisely, it will be used to evaluate students’ ability to acquire mathematical skills, and the effectiveness of the Montessori methodology. Fourth, student focus group discussions will be used to collect data. These discussions will enable me to collect data concerning the students’ knowledge, opinions and learning experiences.
Additionally, I will be able to identify the teaching methods that children are familiar with and the challenges that they face. This will help me to evaluate the effectiveness of my teaching interventions. I will also be able to get new teaching ideas from the teachers who will participate in the discussions.
Finally, teaching journals will be used to collect data concerning my experiences in class in order to improve my instruction methods and strategies. I will be evaluating the strengths and weakness that will be identified in lessons and teaching techniques on a weekly basis. I will use videotaping to identify my weaknesses and strengths during lessons. Moreover, my notes will be peer-reviewed by other teachers in order to identify mistakes.
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Nicholl, M. (1998). Accelerated Learning for the 21st Century. New York: Dell Publishing.
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