At the Centennial Celebration and refresher course in San Fransisco, we were encouraged not to only use the catalog version of the cards and counters that are found in so many primary classrooms but to also make our own. The speaker said that Mario Montessori asked that beautiful things be used for the counters such as beads, shells and semi-precious stones.
I take an extra look at this material when I substitute in various classrooms so as to see if the teacher has put together one herself or purchased one. Today I photographed a child using a cards and counters material that I was drawn to myself. I wanted to sit down and do the work after him just so that I could touch it and experience its beauty.
Besides the aesthetic quality of the material, I really liked that the object for the one was larger than several of the objects used for greater quantities like 6 or 9. I have found that a child making a short bead stair will be thrown off if the bead bar for 4 is longer in length than the one for 7. This happens when a bead bar is lost and is replaced with one from another set.
On many occasions, I have told children to count the bead bars and note their quantity, rather than visually assessing one to be larger and therefore judging it to have more value. But, again and again, I have seen children become upset as their sense of order tells them its incorrect.
In today's set of cards and counters, the objects are the same if they collectively represent a specific quantity. Their common attribute is that they have something to do with the ocean or beach - shells and sea glass.
Look at each picture below and ask yourself which one you would want to work with. Let me know via your comments.
Catalog cards and counters:
The cards and counters in today's classroom:
(I just noticed he has three shells under the 3 and the 4. I am substituting in the same class tomorrow. I will check to see if there is a shell missing...)