Numerical principles can be difficult for small children to grasp because developmentally, their brains are often not yet programmed to understand the abstract nature of mathematical reasoning. Montessori learning aims to help little ones understand conceptual ideas with some tactile exercises involving Spindle Boxes.

Designed specifically for the Montessori maths curriculum, the material consists of two boxes; one with a lid that holds 45 spindles and another open box (with high sides, almost like a tray) that is divided into nine, numbered compartments. The function of the Spindle Boxes is to teach children the natural sequence of numerals (counting) and to understand the association between the number (as a symbol) and the quantity it represents.

The following tutorial explains exactly how Spindle Boxes are used in a classroom environment as a way of facilitating an understanding of basic arithmetic:

An essential element to the comprehension of quantity (as suggested in the tutorial) is the notion of ‘zero’; that it means ‘nothing’. Once children have understood this, they will move on to the numbers 1-9. By physically holding the spindles in their hands (and then placing them into the slots as they count them out), little ones will have a literal understanding of the concepts ‘little’ and ‘lots’ – that 1 is a small number and 9 is larger.  If during the exercise counting has been incorrect, at the end there will be an insufficient number of spindles, which will alert the child to the fact that an error has been made; at which point self-correction can take place.

If you’d like further information about this tutorial, feel free to contact us at We’re happy to answer any questions.

Image Attribution: