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The Fifth Great Lesson: The Story of Numbers

The last of the five great lessons is also called the History of Mathematics. Montessori’s fifth great lesson tells the story of the beginning of math and geometry. Starting with one to one correspondence, it takes us through the development of numerals, the discovery of zero, the invention of modern geometry, and finally how the binary number system is used to run modern computers.
Check out the video and just imagine if we all were to learn math this way. Perhaps none of our children would ever hear the phrase, “I’m not good at math.”
This lesson leads to the study of:
Mathematics: operations, fractions, decimals, multiples, squares, cubes, percentages, ratio, probability, intro to algebra
Numbers: origins of numbers and systems, bases, types of numbers, scientific notation, mathematicians
Geometry: congruency, similarity, nomenclature of lines, angles, shapes, solids, measurement, theorems
Application: story problems, measurement, estimation, graphs, patterning, rounding, money concepts
Source: and ETC Montessori

Ramadan is the holy month when Muslims fast and try to perform thawab (good deeds rewarded by Allah). The person fasting is not supposed to eat before iftar (breaking the fast with dates), or lie, speak wrong about anyone behind their backs or do anything that is morally incorrect.

The experience is very distinctive. A person may see other men coming as brothers, irrespective of color, status or anything else, shoulder to shoulder for namaz (prayer). There is a feeling of peace within the soul. As the imam leading the namaz performs sajda (prostration) and recites the prayers, other do the same behind him.
A unique sense of mental peace is experienced, something that takes a man away from this world for some moments, when he feels God’s presence with him.
Through each entire day of Ramadan, every Muslim should try to find an opportunity where he can do something good for others.
Photo: Jama Mosque, Delhi — Photograph 2005 (c) Alex Furr, Via Wikimedia Commons.

The Third Great Lesson: Coming of Human Beings

The next Great Lesson is the Coming of Human Beings. This lesson involves a timeline with a tool and a human hand to talk about the three gifts that make humans special: a mind to imagine, a hand to do work, and a heart that can love. This lesson will lead children to study the beginning of civilizations and the needs of early humans.

This lesson leads to the study of:

History: timelines, prehistory, ancient civilizations, world history, history of specific countries and continents
Culture: art, artists, music, composers, dance, drama, architecture, design, philosophy, religion, grace and courtesy
Social Studies: current events, government, economics, commerce, volunteering & charity
Discovery & Invention: scientists, inventors, scientific method, inventions, simple machines


The Second Great Lesson: Coming of Life

The Second Great Lesson involves the coming of life. This lesson revolves around the Timeline of Life, a long chart with pictures and information about microorganisms, plants, and animals that have lived (or now live) on the earth. The great diversity of life is emphasized, and special care is paid to the “jobs” that each living thing does to contribute to life on earth.

This lesson leads to the study of:

  • Biology: cells, organized groups, five kingdoms, specimens, dissection, observation, use of microscope
  • Botany: study of plants, classification, functions, parts of plants (seed, fruit, leaf, stem, root, flower), types of plants
  • Habitats: location, characteristics, food chains/webs, symbiosis, adaptation, ecosystems, conservation
  • Ancient Life: eras of the earth, evolution, extinction, fossil records, excavation
  • Animals: classification, needs, similarities/differences, human systems, nutrition, hygiene
  • Monera, Protista, and Fungi Kingdoms: what they are, classification, observation


Montessori Elementary Curriculum:
First Great Lesson – Coming of the Universe and the Earth

The First Great Lesson is the most memorable and is often done on the very first day of school. It involves the use of a balloon and gold stars to tell the story of the beginning of the universe. This lesson also includes some demonstrations using solids and liquids to show how the continents and oceans first came together.
This lesson leads to the study of:
Astronomy: solar system, stars, galaxies, comets, constellations
Meteorology: wind, currents, weather, fronts, erosion, water cycle, clouds, glaciers
Chemistry: states of matter, changes, mixtures, reactions, elements, atoms, periodic table, compounds, molecules, chemical formulas, equations, lab work, experimentation
Physics: magnetism, electricity, gravity, energy, light, sound, heat, friction, motion, experimentation
Geology: types of rocks, minerals, land forms, volcanoes, earthquakes, plate tectonics, ice ages, eras of the earth
Geography: maps, globes, latitude/longitude, climates, land/water form names, continent and country research
Origins of the Universe pic
Maria Montessori was devoutly religious, and brought many of her beliefs into the Great Lessons. These lessons came about back when religious beliefs were an accepted, natural part of everyday life (including schools). Things are different today, and if you are teaching at a school, you’ll probably want to stick to a factual account of the beginning of the universe (see the end of this post for some resources); if you’re at home, you can feel free to tailor the lesson to your own family’s religious beliefs. The story is inspirational to children no matter which version they hear. (See photo: origins of the universe)