How Montessori Works

gabriel & GavinThe child in the Montessori classroom is learning about the world through all her senses, starting with mastering practical tasks and how to care for herself. A natural progression leads to writing, reading and math — always learning actively, independently, never by rote — and then to the big questions of the world we live in. Throughout the process, the child is always learning actively, independently, never by rote.

A Montessori education prepares children to think creatively and rigorously, and helps develop the all-important executive functions of attention, working memory, inhibitory control, and flexibility. This Harvard-produced video discusses the importance of executive functions (the scenes in the Montessori classrooms were filmed right here at Three Tree Montessori School!).

Want some more facts from the experts?

  • Here’s a brief video from Dr. Steven Hughes, a pediatric neuropsychologist, talking about why Maria Montessori “got everything right” and how a Montessori education offers nothing less than “the development of a human person and their consciousness, their brain.”
  • Dr. Angeline Lillard, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, has been studying Montessori’s methods for more than two decades. In 2005, Dr. Lillard published a book called Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius in which she talks about how “modern research in psychology suggests the Montessori system is much more suited to how children learn and develop than the traditional system is.”

And in a 2006 study published in Science magazine, she studied a large group of children — some of whom were selected in a random lottery to attend a public Montessori school, and some of them who attended traditional public school — to determine whether a Montessori education made a difference. The answer: a resounding yes.

By the end of kindergarten, the Montessori children performed better on standardized tests of reading and math, engaged in more positive interaction on the playground, and showed more advanced social cognition and executive control. They also showed more concern for fairness and justice. At the end of elementary school, Montessori children wrote more creative essays with more complex sentence structures, selected more positive responses to social dilemmas, and reported feeling more of a sense of community at their school.

  • And here’s Dr. Hughes again, talking about how Montessori students are simply “good at doing things.