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The Montessori method is a child-centered, alternative educational method based on the child development theories originated by Italian educator Maria Montessori (1870–1952) in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Primarily applied in preschool and elementary school settings (and occasionally in middle- and high school),  its method of education is characterised by emphasising self-directed activity, on the part of the child, and clinical observation, on the part of the teacher (often called a director, directress, guide) — to stress the importance of adapting the child’s learning environment to his or her development level, and the role of physical activity in the child’s absorbing abstract concepts and learning practical skills. The use of auto-didactic (self-correcting) equipment for introducing and learning concepts, and reading taught reading via phonics and whole language, the comparative benefits of which are presently being recognised.
Dr. Maria Montessori developed what came to be called the Montessori Method as an outgrowth of her post-graduate research into the intellectual development of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Building on the work of French physicians Jean Itard and Edouard Seguin, she developed an environment for the scientific study of children with physical and mental disabilities. After succeeding in treating these children, she began to study the application of her techniques to the education of children without intellectual or developmental disabilities. By 1906, Montessori was well-known enough that she was asked to head a daycare center in Rome’s poor San Lorenzo district. She used the opportunity to observe the children’s interactions with sensorial materials (developed to appeal to the senses), refining them, and developing new materials with which the children could work. This self-directed, interactive, materials-centered approach, where the teacher mainly observes while the children select objects specifically designed to impart conceptual frameworks and skills, is a hallmark of Montessori method education. Her initial work focused upon children of pre-school age. After observing developmental changes in children commencing elementary school, and recognizing that children’s cognitive (thought) processes are inherently different from those of adults, Montessori and her son, Mario, began a new course of research to adapt her approach to elementary-school children.
Girls at The Druk White Lotus School learning with Montessori materials The Montessori name is famous, but not a trademark, and it is associated with more than one organisation. There are schools “influenced by Montessori” bearing little resemblance, and which have received substantive criticism from schools with a closer lineage to Montessori’s work. This article is about Dr. Maria Montessori’s work, that of her colleagues and successors.
In the years after 1907, as it did to Europe’s other countries, Dr. Montessori’s work reached the US. Many well-regarded American figures (Alexander Graham Bell and his wife, Thomas Edison, President Wilson) quickly recognised the value of her work with children, and sought to encourage and collaborate with her.
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In 1911, innovative educators founded the Modern School Movement, a series of schools using Montessori methods and equipment. In New York City, a Modern School, founded by Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, and others, known as the Ferrer Center, was one of the first to adopt the Montessori method. In 1912 Dr. Montessori spoke to a standingroom-only audience at Carnegie Hall, in New York City. By 1915, she had been invited to participate in the Pan-Pacific World’s Fair in San Francisco, celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal. There, she had set-up a fullyfunctioning classroom for display to the attending. This early American enthusiasm for Dr. Montessori was short-lived, after the 1914 publication of The Montessori System Examined, a critical booklet, by William Kilpatrick; by 1920, Montessori schools had virtually disappeared from the US. The Montessori method school resurgence did not occur until after 1960, when Nancy McCormick Rambusch and Margaret Stephenson, who each worked with Dr. Montessori in Europe, separately went to the US. Since 1961, Dr. Montessori’s work has been on a steady and growing incline. Currently, there are more than 5,000 Montessori schools in the US.
children direct their own learning, choosing among the sections of a well-structured and stocked classroom, the curriculum including Practical Life (fine and gross motor skills), Sensorial (senses and brain), Language, Mathematics, Geography, Science, and Art. The teacher’s role is to introduce children to materials, and then remain a “silent presence” in the classroom.  Montessori schools pride themselves on seeing and meeting the student’s personality and intellectual needs, rather than viewing them as part of a classroom process. The students are encouraged to teach and to help each other. 
The Montessori educational philosophy is built upon the idea that children develop and think differently from adults; that they are not merely “adults in small bodies”. Dr. Montessori advocated children’s rights, children working to develop themselves into adults, and that these developments would lead to world peace. The Montessori method discourages traditional measurements of achievement (grades, tests) on the premise that it damages the emotional inner-growth of children (and adults), yet, it does measure feedback and qualitative analyses of a child’s schooling performance, usually recorded as a list of skills, activities, and critical points, and sometimes including a narrative explanation of the child’s educational achievements, strengths, and weaknesses — with the emphasis upon the improvement of said weaknesses. “We instill a desire to learn and provide things to feed that desire”, says Fosca White, Director of the Montessori Academy of Chicago, Illinois.
Introduction: the methodology in practice
With the 1907 opening of Dr. Montessori’s first school in Rome, her surname — Montessori — became associated with schools applying her educational approach and educational materials in schooling tailored to children’s developmental needs. World-wide, many schools implement the Montessori method for educating students in a wide range of ages, about which Dr. Maria Montessori stated: From the moment the child enters the classroom, each step in his education is seen as a progressive building block, ultimately forming the whole person, in the emergence from childhood to adult. All focus is on the needs of the child. One distinguishing feature of the Montessori method, at the pre-school age, is that
The premises of a Montessori approach to teaching and learning include the following: • That children are capable of self-directed learning. • That it is critically important for the teacher to be an "observer" of the child instead of a lecturer. This observation of the child interacting with his or her environment is the basis for the continuing presentation of new material and avenues of learning. Presentation of subsequent exercises for skill development and information
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accumulation are based on the teacher’s observation that the child has mastered the current exercise(s). That there are numerous "sensitive periods" of development (periods of a few weeks or even months), during which a child’s mind is particularly open to learning specific skills or knowledge such as crawling, sitting, walking, talking, reading, counting, and various levels of social interaction. These skills are learned effortlessly and joyfully. Learning one of these skills outside of its corresponding sensitive period is certainly possible, but can be difficult and frustrating. That children have an "absorbent mind" from birth to around age 6, possessing limitless motivation to achieve competence within their environment and to perfect skills and understandings. This phenomenon is characterized by the young child’s capacity for repetition of activities within sensitive period categories, such as exhaustive babbling as language practice leading to language competence. That children are masters of their school room environment, which has been specifically prepared for them to be academic, comfortable, and to encourage independence by giving them the tools and responsibility to manage its upkeep. That children learn through discovery, so didactic materials with a control for error are used. Through the use of these materials, which are specific to Montessori schools (sets of letters, blocks and science experiments) children learn to correct their own mistakes instead of relying on a teacher to give them the correct answer. That children most often learn alone during periods of intense concentration. During these self-chosen and spontaneous periods, the child is not to be interrupted by the teacher. 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.
Montessori is a greatly hands-on approach to learning. It encourages children to develop their observation skills by doing many types of activities. These activities include use of the five senses, kinetic movement, spatial refinement, small and gross motor skill coordination, and concrete knowledge that leads to later abstraction.
Montessori classrooms provide an atmosphere that is pleasant and attractive, to allow children to learn at their own pace and interact with others in a natural and peaceful environment. In the ideal classroom, children would have unfettered access to the outdoors, but this frequently is impossible, given modern-day limited space and cost considerations. In response, Montessori teachers stock their classrooms with nature shelves, living plants, and small pets, or perhaps a windowsill garden, allowing children to experience as much as possible of the natural world, given modern constraints. In the elementary-, middle-, and upperschool years, Montessori schools ideally adhere to the three-year age range of pupils, to encourage an interactive social and learning environment. This system allows flexibility in learning pace and allowing older children to become teachers, by sharing what they have learned.
Areas of the Classroom
In the Montessori Curriculum, there are 6 overall areas:
This area is designed to help students develop a care for themselves, the environment, and each other. In the Primary years (ages 3–6), children learn how to do things such as: pouring and scooping, using kitchen utensils, washing dishes, polishing objects, scrubbing tables, and cleaning-up. They also learn how to dress themselves, tie their shoes, wash their hands, and other self-care practices. They learn these practical skills through a wide variety of materials and activities. Although caring for one-self and for one’s environment is an important part of Montessori Practical Life education in these
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years, it also presumes to prepare the child for more: The activities might build a child’s concentration as well as being designed, in many cases, to prepare the child for writing. For the first three years of life, children absorb a sense of order in their environment. They learn how to naturally act a certain way, by absorbing it. In these ages, 3–6, the children are learning how to both build their own order and to discover, understand, and refine the order they already know. The practical life area teaches language in many forms. Fine motor skills used in the pencilgrip help the child develop that particular grip, in order to later more easily use a pencil. Strong concentration and attention to detail are typical traits of Montessori-schooled children. Practical life schooling in the elementary years and in the high school years involves many of the same skills, but also begins asserting a greater drive towards community-service-oriented activities.
This includes studies of the world and other cultures. Montessori children achieve early understanding of the concepts of continent, country, and state, and the names of many countries of the world. Montessori method schooling implements include colored maps, to assist the children in remembering continents, countries, and states. More important, the goal is acquiring an understanding of the world’s other cultures and what they offer. When a student learns the map of Asia, pictures, stories, and facts about Asian countries, open many learning opportunities to the child, providing a real sense of the world, and how it is different — even in the same area. For the elementary years, an in-depth cultural curriculum is implemented. Children begin learning the capital cities of the different states, and begin learning about governments. The Montessori teacher is present as a guide — to help draw-in different aspects for the child to explore and research — rather being the source of all the information. A focus on appreciating and enjoying other cultures is a core part of the cultural curriculum. The child is free to direct his and her interest in geography, and to expand it via the many other opportunities for learning in different areas of the subject. For example, a boy might decide to study the history of his city, which might begin with early settlers. People might have settled the area because it was near a river. That information might lead the boy to widen his study to include the natural life surrounding the river, and how that might have helped the settlers. The growth rate of the area, in different times, might also be included and presented as a graph. In one cultural lesson, the child, therefore, might include mathematics, science, history, and geography in one study.
All learning first comes through the senses. By isolating something that is being taught, the child can more easily focus on it. There are many different Montessori sensorial materials designed to help the child refine the tactile, visual, auditory, olfactory, and gustatory senses. For example, colors are taught with color tablets. The color tablets are all alike, except for one detail — the color in the middle. It helps avoid confusion for the child, and helps him and her focus specifically on: What is “blue”? Exact phrasing of identifying terms is important, thus, an oval is not an “egg shape”, a sphere is not a “ball”. The Montessori method greatly emphasises using the correct terminology for naming what we see. This is readily apparent in the sensorial area, because, it regularly overlaps into the mathematics area. The red rods used in the sensorial area schooling are a direct link to the segmented rods used in mathematics taught to onethrough-ten year-olds. The pink tower has a connection to units and thousands that the child learns later, in the 3-6 curriculum. Even the trinomial cube will be used in the elementary years to figure out complex mathematical formulae.
The science curriculum takes advantage of the child’s natural questioning and draws a curriculum for the 3–6 age range. Early-childhood age children are very detail-oriented. They know what a bird is. At that age, they want to know the body parts of a bird. They want to know the life cycles of different animals. They begin to observe the parts of a
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plant, and ask: What are those long things coming out the middle of a flower?
Children go from a concrete understanding of mathematics to an abstract understanding of mathematics via mathematical concepts. For example, telling the difference between 1, 10, 100, and 1000, because they have felt it many times. Originally, they felt it in the pink tower, when they were three-year-olds, and, later, in the mathematics materials. The concepts of squares and cubes become concrete in their use of the Montessori Bead Cabinet. As mentioned, the sensorial area leads very well in to the mathematics area. A girl who attended a 3–6 age range Montessori classroom, likely worked with the educational material named the trinomial cube. Having worked much with it for several years, when she was 3–6, then extensively in the 6–9 classroom, she might be ready to assume another, abstract phase of the trinomial cube. So, rather than working with it as a concrete sensorial material (matching colors, shapes), the girl might be intellectually ready to use it as an abstract material, from the mathematics area, for understanding that: (a+b+c)³ = a³+3a²b+3a²c+b³+3ab²+3b²c+c³+3ac²+3bc²+6abc Later, she then could solve the mathematical equation to learn the cube of a+b+c with different variables, an example of how sensorial area materials overlap into the mathematics area.
The language curriculum, especially in the early years, includes everything — from vocabulary development to writing to reading. Children learn basic letter-sounds through the use of sandpaper letters; the letters are cut from sandpaper and glued to a wooden board. The child’s tracing the letter implements tactile learning of how the letter feels. The children can also feel if a mistake was made, because of the different texture of the sandpaper from the wooden board. They begin constructing words with a moveable alphabet of wood or plastic letters, before they can actually read words. Composition, grammar, story-writing, and reports are focused upon in the elementary years. Grammar is taught with hands-on materials. In a 6–9 age range classroom, the child learns about nouns, verbs, adjectives, articles, prepositions, adverbs, conjunctions, pronouns, and interjections. The children use grammar symbols for each part of speech. They place the symbols upon a particular part of speech in a sentence. They are: 1. Noun — large black triangle. A triangle is used because it represents a very sturdy object and something that is concrete. 2. Article — small, light blue triangle. 3. Adjective — medium-size, dark-blue triangle. The triangles are used with articles and adjectives because they are part of the noun family. 4. Verb — Red Circle. The red circle is used because it represents action. 5. Conjunction — pink line. A pink line represents a ribbon that ties the ideas together. 6. Preposition — green bridge. A green bridge is used because a preposition connects two nouns, bridging their relationship. 7. Adverb — smaller orange circle. Since the adverb is related to the verb, it also is a circle. 8. Interjection — a golden object, like an exclamation point or key hole. In the 9–12 age range classroom, focus is also placed on learning gerunds, abstract nouns, and advanced grammar concepts. The materials are similar to the parts of speech symbols used in the 6–9 age range classroom, but there are additions to them.
Every activity has its place in the classroom and is self-contained and self-correcting. The original didactic materials are specific in design, conforming to exact dimensions, and each activity is designed to focus on a single skill, concept, or exercise. All of the material is based on SI units of measurement (for instance, the Pink Tower is based on the 1 cm cube) which allows all the materials to work together and complement each other, as well as introduce the SI units through concrete example. In addition to this, material is intended for multiple uses at the primary level. For example, manipulative materials initially used to allow the child to analyze sense impressions are also designed to improve fine motor coordination needed for writing. Maria Montessori designed most of the Montessori sensorial materials
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Other materials are often constructed by the teacher: felt storyboard characters, letter boxes (small containers of objects that all start with the same sound) for the language area, science materials (e.g. dinosaur models for tracing, etc.), scent or taste activities, and so on. The practical life area materials are almost always put together by the teacher. All activities must be neat, clean, attractive and preferably made of natural materials such as glass or wood, rather than plastic. Sponges, brooms, and dustpans are provided and mishaps, including broken glassware, are not punished but rather treated as an opportunity for the children to demonstrate responsibility by cleaning up after themselves. At higher grade levels, the teacher becomes more involved in creating materials since not only the students’ capacities but also the potential subjects widen considerably. Many of the earlier materials, moreover, can be revisited with a new explanation, emphasis, or use; for example, the cube that a five-year-old used as an exercise in color matching is revealed to the elementary level student to physically embody the mathematical relationship (a+b)³=a³ + 3a²b + 3ab² +b³.
letters, not the names. For example, the teacher would show the child the "K" sandpaper letter and say /k/ /k/. An emphasis is placed on the correct way to say the sound, so there is no "uh" added to the end of the sound. (Such as "Kuh" for the letter "k"). The child is encouraged to trace the letter as he or she says the sound aloud. Once the first letter is mastered, the child will be introduced to another. When children have learned several letter sounds, they are introduced to a set of letter cutouts called the movable alphabet. The vowels and consonants are different colors. Using these letters, the child will learn how to blend consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) sounds to form words such as "mat" and "cat."
Home schoolers may find both the philosophy and the materials of Montessori useful since each child is treated as an individual and the activities are self-contained, self-correcting, and expandable. Certain aspects of the Montessori Method can be scaled down to a homeschooling environment. These include; • breaking tasks into simpler components, isolating difficult parts, the emphasis on work (looks like play) within boundaries. • clean, tidy, calm and child friendly environments are created and maintained. • children self direction, responsibility to tidy up and respect people and things are practiced. However, other aspects may be difficult to replicate including; • obtaining a broad range of high quality materials, • the experience and knowledge of specialist, experienced, trained teachers, • specifically built or adapted facilities. The Montessori social environment creates an atmosphere where; • children help, and are helped, by other children learning to care for and interact with each other, • children interact with other children of varied abilities and, in so doing, gain an understanding of what they have achieved as well as are challenged toward what they could attempt, • children have access to non-related adults.
A child does not engage in an activity until the teacher or another student has directly demonstrated its proper use, and then the child may use it as desired (limited only by individual imagination or the material’s potentially dangerous qualities). Each activity leads directly to a new level of learning or to a concept. When a child actively learns, that child acquires the basis for later concepts. Additionally, repetition of activities is considered an integral part of this learning process, and children are allowed to repeat activities as often as they wish. If a child expresses boredom on account of this repetition, then the child is considered to be ready for the next level of learning. Children are introduced to equipment that is designed especially for the lesson at hand. For example, children are introduced to sandpaper letters as the first step to reading. Sandpaper letters are simple lower case letters cut out of fine-grained sandpaper and mounted on wooden cards. Simple sounds that flow together are introduced first. In addition, children are taught the sounds of the
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While Madam Montessori’s interest in the scientific attitude is entirely praiseworthy, her actual science cannot be so highly commended. Her biology is not always above reproach . . . she generalizes unscientifically as to the condition of contemporary educational thought and practice from observation limited . . . If she had known more of what was being thought and done elsewhere, her discussions would have been saved some blemishes and her system some serious omissions. (p.4) He commended her ideas of child liberty and discipline, but harshly criticized her concept of child development, referring to it as “inadequate and misleading” (p.11). Moreover, he was troubled by the lack of group work and group instruction in Montessori schools, observing: “the Montessori child, each at his own chosen tasks, works in relative isolation, his nearest neighbors possibly looking on . . . We criticize Montessori . . . that she does not provide situations for more adequate social cooperation”. (pp.15–20) Kilpatrick asserted that Montessori’s didactic materials, while strongly attractive and compelling to children, were very remote from the social interests and connections to anything relevant in the child’s life. He wrote: . . . in these schools playing with the didactic apparatus is strictly forbidden, and usually no other play material is furnished. Madam Montessori has, in fact, been publicly quoted as saying, ‘If I were persuaded that children needed to play, I would provide the proper apparatus; but I am not so persuaded’. The best current thought and practice in America would make constructive and imitative play, socially-conditioned, the foundation and principal constituent of the program for children of the kindergarten age, but Madam Montessori rejects it. (p.28) Time and the development of the Montessori Method from its earliest stages has tempered William Heard Kilpatrick’s century old criticisms.
3 period lesson
For many presentations, a 3 step process is used in the lesson. This is called the "3 period lesson." 2 or 3 materials are selected from what the children are working with. • Period 1 consists of providing the child with the name of the material. In the case of letter sounds, the teacher will have the child trace the letter and say, "This is /k/. This is /m/." This provides the children with the name of what they are learning. • Period 2 is to help the child recognize the different objects. Most of the time with the three period lesson is in period 2. Some things the teacher might say are, "Point to /k/. Point to /m/." or "Give me /m/. Give me /k/." After spending some time in the 2nd period, the child may move on to period 3. • Period 3 involves checking to see if the child not only recognizes the name of the material, but is able to tell you what it is. The teacher will point to the "m" sandpaper letter and ask the student, "What is this?" If the child replies with, "mmmmmmmmmmmmmm," we know the child fully understands it. Maria Montessori was very clear to point out that if the child does not go through the 3rd period, it is OK and the teacher must simply put the material away to try some other time. There is no pressure from the teacher to learn these things, just trust that the child will learn them eventually and they are not necessarily ready for that.
Kilpatrick’s Criticism of Montessori
When the popular press and many important public figures were exalting Montessori’s work, the progressive experimentalist William Heard Kilpatrick, was an unsympathetic critic. He spent much time denouncing her ideas through lectures, and later published a seventy-one page booklet titled The Montessori System Examined, in 1914. In The Montessori System Examined, Kilpatrick claimed that Dr. Montessori’s educational views had been created through unscientific observation and note-taking, and that she clearly lacked knowledge of educational thought and practice, thus:
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complex sentence structures, selected more positive responses to social dilemmas, and reported feeling more of a sense of community at their school. The authors concluded that, "when strictly implemented, Montessori education fosters social and academic skills that are equal or superior to those fostered by a pool of other types of schools." Research by K. Dohrmann and colleagues  supplements this by showing superior math and science performance in high school by children who previously attended public Montessori (as compared to high school classmates, over half of whom were at the most selective city public high schools); and two studies by Rathunde and Csikszentmihalyi showing a higher level of interest and motivation while doing school work as well as more positive social relations among Montessori middle-schoolers as opposed to matched controls.
From Childhood to Adolescence
Near the end of her life, in her book De L’Enfant à L’Adolescent  (From Childhood to Adolescence), Montessori contributed to the work of the International Bureau of Education and UNESCO, by applying her self-directed teaching methodology to the secondaryschool and university settings.
Angeline Stoll Lillard’s award-winning 2005 book Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius (Oxford University Press) presents the first really comprehensive overview evaluating Montessori versus conventional education in terms of research relevant to their underlying principles. Lillard cites research indicating that Montessori’s basic methods are more suited to what psychology research reveals about human development, and argues the need for more research. A 2006 study published in the journal "Science" concluded that Montessori students (at ages 5 and 12) performed better than control students who had lost the random computerized lottery to go to Montessori in prior years and instead went to a variety of different conventional schools. This better performance was obtained in a variety of areas, including not only traditional academic areas such as language and math, but in social skills as well (though by age 12 academic benefits had largely disappeared). : On several dimensions, children at a public inner city Montessori school had superior outcomes relative to a sample of Montessori applicants who, because of a random lottery, attended other schools. By the end of kindergarten, the Montessori children performed better on standardized tests of reading and math, engaged in positive interaction on the playground more, and showed advanced social cognition and executive control more. They also showed more concern for fairness and justice. At the end of elementary school, Montessori children wrote more creative essays with more
• • • • • • • • Montessori sensorial materials Maria Montessori Dorothy Canfield Fisher Inclusive classroom Gifted education Edouard Seguin Friedrich Fröbel Montessori-Based Dementia Programming
 International Bureau of Education/ Unesco: Montessori and the New Education Movement. Retrieved 27/8/ 2008  Maria Montessori and informal education    The Essential Montessori: An Introduction to the Woman, the Writings, the Method, and the Movement, Elizabeth G. Hainstock, 1997, p. xiii.  The Montessori Method, Maria Montessori, online edition, ch. XXII, p. 371.  Chicago Sunday Tribune/Smart section/ March 1, 2009, pg. 4  http://www.archive.org/details/ montessorisystem00kilprich  http://www.ibe.unesco.org/en/services/ documentation/collections.html
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 Lillard A, Else-Quest N (September 2006). "The early years. Evaluating Montessori education". Science 313 (5795): 1893–4. doi:10.1126/ science.1132362. PMID 17008512.  Dohrmann K R, Nishida T, Gartner A, Lipsky D, Grimm K (2007). "High school outcomes for students in a public Montessori program". Journal of Research in Childhood Education 22: 205–17.  Rathunde K, Csikszentmihalyi M (May 2005). "Middle School Students’ Motivation and Quality of Experience: A Comparison of Montessori and Traditional School Environments". American Journal of Education 111 (3): 341–71. doi:10.1086/428885.  Rathunde K, Csikszentmihalyi M (September 2005). "The Social Context of Middle School: Teachers, Friends, and Activities in Montessori and Traditional School Environments". The Elementary School Journal 106 (1): 59–79. doi:10.1086/496907. Beineke, J. (1998). And There Were Giants in the Land: The life of William Heard Kilpatrick. New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc. Kilpatrick, W. H. (1914). The Montessori System Examined. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company
• Lillard, Angeline: Montessori: The Science behind the Genius ISBN 0-19-516868-2 • Loeffler, Margaret Howard: Montessori in Contemporary American Culture ISBN 0-435-08709-6 • Montessori, Maria: The Discovery of the Child ISBN 0-345-33656-9 • Montessori, Maria: The Montessori Method ISBN 0-8052-0922-0 • Montessori, Maria: The Secret of Childhood ISBN 0-345-30583-3 • Montessori Programs in Public Schools. ERIC Digest. • A Montessori Mother by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
• Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) • Montessori Educators International (MEI) • International Montessori Index • American Montessori Society (AMS) • Montessori Society of Canada official alumni association of AMI trained teachers and administrators in Canada.