Montessori Math Activities for Preschoolers — Spindle Box

Once the Sandpaper Numbers 0-9 are mastered, it’s time to move on to some number to quantity work.  My favorite way to teach quantity (especially differences/increases in quantity) is the Montessori Spindle Box.  I bought this smaller (and more budget-friendly) spindle box, and it is perfect for our home environment.

To present the spindle box, start with number 1 and complete one number at a time.  Trace the number, name it, then count that many spindles into your child’s hand.

Next, have your child close her fingers around the spindles in her hand.  This helps her to notice that the quantity is getting larger.  As L says, “Wow, it’s really hard to hold 9!”

Then have your child count each spindle from her hand one at a time into the correct slot.  Continue doing this with each number until you have finished 9.

Go back to 0.  Trace it and name it.  Look at the empty bowl since there are no spindles left.  Say, “Zero.  Zero means nothing.”  [This is L’s favorite part for some reason.]


I love this work because you can FEEL the difference between 1 and 9 and every number in between.  That really helps to internalize the concept of quantity and its relationship to the written number.  It also provides a great control of error in that there are simply no spindles left to put in the slot for 0, so that is a concrete way to show that 0 means nothing.