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A Montessori Moment: Sandpaper Numbers

December 8, 2008

While many children can effortlessly count from 1 to 10, they don’t necessarily know what the numbers represent – in terms of their quantities – and don’t necessarily connect the number names with the number symbols.

At the September 8 PTA meeting, Carolina Musawwir, Parent Involvement Chair, shared this hands-on Montessori-style activity for parents to try at home with their children.


“What the hand does, the mind remembers”

Maria Montessori believed that the hand is intimately connected to the developing brain in children. Children must actually touch the shapes, letters, temperatures, etc. that they are learning about – not just watch a teacher or TV screen tell them about these discoveries.

This activity is designed to help young children make a connection between number symbols and what they represent.

Materials Needed

  • 5 large sheets of sandpaper
  • 10 pieces of rectangular cardboard
  • scissors
  • glue
  • 55 red round stickers
  • 55 small objects – beans, pebbles, coins, poker chips, etc.

Sandpaper number cards


Cut numbers from 1 to 10 out of sand paper.  Glue a sandpaper number onto each piece of cardboard and stick the corresponding amount of red stickers below or next to the number.  Place the cards with the numbers facing up on the floor in front of you and the child.  Place the 55 beans (or other small objects) in a small container, such as a basket.  Introduce the activity to the child by demonstrating how it “works,” then have the child do it him/herself.

1) For each card, place a bean on each of the red stickers and count out loud as you lay each bean down. Then trace the sandpaper number next to the beans with two fingers and say, “This is the number 5”.  Do this 2 or 3 times with different numbers.  Then have the child do it.

2) Help the child recognize the different number symbols, for example, by saying, “Point to /5/. Point to /3/.” At this point the child may still be relying on counting the dots to come up with the number name.

3) Check to see if the child not only recognizes number names but also is able to tell you what each symbol is. For example, point to the “5” sandpaper number and ask the child, “What is this?” If the child replies with, “five” we know the child fully understands it.

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