An Insight into Dr. Montessori’s Materials and the Brilliance of Their Design

An Insight into Dr. Montessori’s Materials and the Brilliance of Their Design

Dr. Montessori gave special care and thought into the design of her materials. She used the observation skills honed through her education and many degrees to design her materials to meet both the educational needs of the children and to allow for independent correction and success in the child’s pursuit of knowledge. She had each material handmade and then tried them out with her students making adjustments as her observations yielded the feedback necessary for improvement. Three main principles guided her craftsmanship; these were The Control of Error, The Direct Aim (or purpose) and the Indirect Aim of each material. Here we have given the explanations of these principles and how they apply to the Sensorial curriculum area of the classroom.


The Main Control of Error within the Sensorial materials is the use of the child’s own senses. Control of error may be in the materials, such as the geometric cabinet where each inset will only properly fit into its proper frame. In Sensorial one example of the Control of Error is through visual discrimination and the tactile senses, which is seen and felt by the child’s own observations. For example, some of the knobbed cylinders can be placed into the wrong hole but the child will notice with their sight and hands that the cylinder does not fit tightly into the hole and look to find a hole that is a better fit. A Control of Error may be seeing something out of place or seeing a necessary piece of equipment missing. The Control of Error helps lead the child toward auto-education. Sight and Tactile sense are the main senses used for control of error for the pink cubes, brown prisms, red rods, triangle box, hexagon box, the color boxes, fabric box, and baric tablets (temperature sorting and matching). For the sound cylinders the control of error is auditory disharmony and for the smelling bottles its olfactory disharmony. Lastly, for the tasting bottles, the control of error is gustatory disharmony. If the knob cylinders were to be done with a blindfold the control of error would be exclusively tactile disharmony. All five of the senses are used for control of error of the sensorial materials.

The first Direct Aim of the Sensorial materials, as with the other materials, is order, concentration, coordination, independence, the development of self-esteem, and the development of the will. This is done by the child’s ability to choose their own work (independence) and ability to organize their work (order). The child develops the attention span and learns the ability to focus on a material to completion (concentration). The child knows when they have completed a material and through control of error can correct themselves (self-esteem). Lastly, the child replaces the material back on the shelf as they found it (order). In addition, the child uses the materials to comprehend educational concepts such as grading, matching, discrimination, classification and nomenclature for geometric shapes and solids. In the age range of 3-6 Dr. Montessori believed that children are in the state of the absorbent mind so that exposure to terms and definitions are learned and stored for later recall and application.

The Indirect Aim of the Sensorial materials is the development and refinement of the particular sense addressed in a particular material. The auditory sense is refined through the use of the sound cylinders, the gustatory senses are refined by the child through the use of the tasting bottles and the olfactory sense is refined by using the smelling cylinders. The visual sense continues to be refined with the sensorial materials as well. Most of the other sensorial materials help the child to develop visual discrimination.


Logann Gavey -Cottage Campus Director

“Humankind, be both”