I am just starting to do math with Gene- he's been learning about numbers (how to count, etc) just by talking with me and reading books, but we haven't done any formal work. Now we are just beginning with some of the math materials I've bought, and some I am in the process of making. I wish I just had them all to use as he is ready, because my gut feeling tells me he's going to speed through some of the beginning activities. But Montessori always emphasizes beginning at the beginning, and not skipping any activity. So, we've been using the number rods or "red and blue rods", and going in order. I am just going to describe them: long wooden rods with stripes of red and blue painted on them. The "one" rod is maybe 4-5 inches long, and is all red. The "two" rod is twice as long, the "three" rod is three times as long. Increments of that same 4-5 inches are measured off on each rod in alternating red and blue. First lesson is just laying them out in order and then labeling each with a number card (from 1-10). Then, once that is easily done (and, it sounds easier than it is...Gene can do it but the first couple times the actual laying in order took a little longer than I thought it would) you can take the ten rod and lay it by itself. Put another rod next to it (say, the 8 rod) and ask the child to "make ten"...i.e. find the rod that laid next to the 8 rod would make 10 (so they find the 2 rod).
Then a new material- numbers and counters. I printed off some number cards (could be the same as used with number rods) and found some little stones in my collection of random objects in the basement. The cards are laid in order, and then the little stones (could be other small objects, all matching) are laid under each card, in pairs of two (see picture below). This is a counting exercise, but also lays the foundation for easily learning about odd and even numbers. Odds have a single stone at the bottom, and evens have two stones at the bottom.
The next few lessons introduce math beads...I'll post more about those as I get them ready. I can't buy any more materials right now, so I am printing "beads" off the computer. Should be interesting...we'll see if it actually works. The test will be if Gene is interested in using the "beads", because I have heard that actual Montessori beads are very appealing to children. The appeal is what makes a kid want to work with materials, so I hope this works!