Montessori is a method of education named after its founder, Maria Montessori, an Italian scientist, medical doctor, and educator. First developed with low-income and special needs children in 1907, Montessori education is practiced in public and private schools all over the world, serving children from birth to age eighteen. There are more than 5,000 Montessori schools in the U.S. alone, of which more than 500 are public programs.
Montessori education is a deep, detailed, and comprehensive approach to education which is practiced with some variation across schools and cultures. Well-implemented Montessori operating according to national and international standards typically includes some essential elements:
a classroom environment and materials prepared according to Montessori’s developmental and educational theory
an adult trained in the Montessori approach
children freely choosing their own activities from a carefully selected range of materials and options during long, uninterrupted work periods
mixed-classes grouped according to Montessori’s model of human development (typically birth to three years, three to six, six to nine, nine to twelve, and adolescence)
Well-implemented Montessori education is associated with improved literacy, numeracy and high-school graduation rates, as well as strengthening executive function, social problem-solving, and general student satisfaction with school.
Montessori education, a widespread, proven model with more than one hundred years of implementation behind it, is practiced in tens of thousands of schools, with hundreds of thousands of children, from birth to eighteen, on six continents. Montessori rests on fundamental observations about human behavior and a detailed model of human development and educational practices based on the model.
The fundamental principles of Montessori education are simple and straightforward:
There are about 5,000 Montessori schools in the U.S. (of which about 500 are public programs). Schools range in size from single classrooms of just a handful of young children to hundreds of children from toddlers through high school. The term “Montessori” is not copyrighted or trademarked, so a wide range of practices can be found in schools with Montessori in the name. Some schools participate in validation processes offered through various Montessori organizations. More fully implemented Montessori programs generally have a number of characteristics in common.
Children are typically grouped in mixed-age classrooms such as these:
Class sizes are often larger than in conventional models, with groups of 25 to 30 at the three to six year old level, and 30 to 40 at in elementary classrooms. Montessori children in mixed-age classrooms generally require less ‘classroom management’, and large groups offer greater opportunities for independence and a wider range of choices of activity.
Montessori classrooms are designed to support children’s development and independence at various stages of life, and emphasize beauty, order, and simplicity. Classrooms are typically equipped with a set of age-appropriate Montessori materials.
Montessori education covers a very broad range of academic content and skills, typically extending beyond what is expected of most children conventional schooling. Young children develop literacy, numeracy, and cultural knowledge, as well as “soft skills” such as self-regulation, concentration, and attention, through adult-guided, child-driven interactions with the Montessori materials. Elementary aged children explore ideas and construct knowledge across a wide and thorough range of study and experience.
There are a number of national and international Montessori organizations with varying membership, interests, and roles.
The Association Montessori Internationale is an international organization founded in 1929 by Maria Montessori to promote and further her work. AMI offers teacher training and supports the natural development of children in teacher training programs, national affiliates, and special projects around the world. The U.S. affiliate is the Association Montessori Internationale—USA (AMI-USA).
AMS was founded in 1960 and is now the largest Montessori organization in the U.S., training teachers and promoting Montessori education.
IAPM was founded in 1962 in London and continues to train teachers and affiliate schools.
PAMS was founded in 1973 and provides teacher training and school accreditation.
MEPI was founded in 1995 and offers teacher training and professional development.
The National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector (NCMPS), which publishes MontessoriPublic, is an independent non-profit organization supporting the growth and development of high quality public Montessori programs. Read more about NCMPS
The North American Montessori Teachers’ Association (NAMTA) is a membership organization and AMI affiliate founded in 1970 promoting Montessori in North America. NAMTA offers national professional development events, a professional journal, and a number of other services and resources.
The Montessori Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of Montessori education. It sponsors a number of activities, including the periodical Tomorrow’s Child, a help line, a resource library, and a membership organization, the International Montessori Council (IMC).
The Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE) is the U.S. Department of education accreditation body for Montessori teacher training programs. The training organizations listed above are MACTE affiliates.
National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector – Our mission is to help public schools deliver high-quality, personalized education through Montessori.