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Alternative Montessori Counting and Number Materials and Resources for Children with Special Needs

Montessori materials and lessons used to teach numbers and counting are fabulous and work for most children.  But at times you run into a child who may be an exception to this rule.  In most cases this child has special needs.

And let's be clear, it's not that Montessori doesn't work.  The child may just need extra supports and/or resources to be successful.

Or, the child is not developmentally ready for the material and lesson, but shows a desire to learn it.

Here are our alternative Montessori counting and number materials and resources for children with special needs.
Alternative Montessori Counting and Number Materials and Resources for Children with Special Needs

Consider the following situations where the traditional Montessori numbers and counting materials may pose a challenge to a child with special needs.

  • Sensory issues
  • Motor issues
  • Coordination issues
  • Low muscle tone
  • Physical limitations
  • Visual impairment
  • Auditory impairment
  • Speech impairment
  • Emotional Outbursts or Meltdowns
  • Aggression
  • Stimming
  • Inability to focus
  • Executive functioning issues
Here is a list of the alternatives we have used in our classroom and also some that still remain on my wish list!  They have been life savers for us, until our kids were ready for the traditional materials, and in some cases instead of the traditional materials.

Numerical Rod Alternatives

Alternative to large Montessori numerical rods: Small numerical rods

In place of the numerical rods, why not try the Montessori Small Numerical Rods?  They are a fabulous choice for those who can not physically handle work with the numerical rods, and for those who struggle with safety awareness, emotional outbursts, meltdowns and/or aggression.  Sunshine and Princess use ours on a regular basis.
Math abacus for learning to count to 10

There are some children who may suffer from vision impairment and are unable to distinguish the difference between red and blue on the number rods.  In this instance consider the Math Abacus Number Learning and Counting Stacker.  The child can feel the numbers separately and when they go together, building them in a sequence.

If the child can see but needs the abacus for another reason, you could even paint the rings Montessori colors!


Sandpaper Number Alternatives

Alternative to Montessori Sandpaper Numbers for those who are hearing impaired.

The Plan Toys Hand Sign Numbers 1-10 are perfect for a child with a hearing impairment and/or one who lacks the ability to communicate verbally.  Teaching sign language can be so helpful.  We have these at home and my children love them.  They're not as great as the sandpaper numbers, but they certainly work.
Alternative to Montessori Sandpaper Numbers for those who are vision impaired

The Plan Toys Braille Numbers 1-10 are fabulous for a child with a vision impairment.  Numbers on these cards are indented, so the child can feel and trace them as well.
Alternative to Montessori Sandpaper Numbers for children with special needs

For the child who can't handle the feel of sandpaper numbers or who struggles with fine motor skills, the Motor Numbers are a perfect addition to the classroom.  Just think of all of the pincer grasp practice! I can not wait to get these for Sunshine has she HATES the feel of the sandpaper letters.

Spindle Box Alternatives

Though the Spindle Box and Spindles may not be the heaviest Montessori material, they still are pretty bulky. For a child with low muscle tone, physical limitations, and motor issues, the materials can still pose a problem.  You may want to consider a DIY version of this material if there are issues.


Numbers and Counters Alternatives

Alternative to Montessori Numbers and Counters for children with special needs

As a special accommodation consider the Peg Number Board.  The child can pick up where he left off, if he does get distracted.  The peg holes are an extra control when counting.  Putting the pegs in the holes is extra motor practice.  Using this material may not teach odd versus even numbers, but that can be taught at a later date if necessary when the child is ready.

Montessori Bead Stair Alternatives

Montessori Math Bead Bar Printable Pack Bundle

For a child who struggles to use the Montessori Bead Stair, consider the Montessori Math Bead Bar Printable Pack Bundle in Print or Cursive.  It has everything you could possibly need to teach numbers and counting the Montessori way.  They also work great as an extra control when working with the math bead bars, teens and tens boards.

Be sure to check out the Montessori Math Bead Bar Printable Pack in Action to see just how amazing this bundle is!  We use it on a daily basis in our classroom.

Teens and Tens Boards Alternatives and Resources

Alternative to Montessori Teens Board for children with special needs.

If you have a child who struggles with the Montessori Teens Boards due to physical limitations and motor skills consider the Montessori Teen Bead Bar Hanger (Does not come with bead bars).  It may be easier to use.

Once again consider the Montessori Math Bead Bar Printable Pack Bundle in Print or Cursive.  You can use the printables alone or with Montessori beads.  There is a book about teen numbers that can be used as an extra control when working with the traditional Montessori material as well.

And when learning tens and numbers to a hundred, the Montessori Math Bead Bar Printable Pack Bundle in Print or Cursive is an amazing resource!

Introduction to Gold Bead Material and Decimal System Alternatives & Resources

Resource for introduction of the Montessori gold bead material.

For the child who struggles to focus, struggles with executive functioning, or becomes distracted easily the Montessori Place Value Mat is an amazing resource.  It provides so much extra support along with one more control when working with the decimal system.  We have one at home and LOVE it!

For the child who struggles with physical challenges and cannot handle the golden bead material, you may need to skip over it and work with the Stamp Game.  This isn't ideal, but if it's necessary, then do it.

If the golden material and the stamp game do not work for various reasons, consider the Montessori Small Bead Frame.  It is the last of these three materials to introduce and is quite abstract, but if you are able to present the correlation in lessons, and reinforce it as you work together with the child, something is always better than nothing.

Hundred Board

For the child who struggles with the hundred board consider taking a different approach.  If the child can write, have them write the numbers in order with a printable version of the board. Consider using stamps.

Most children struggle with this material due to lack of focus, executive functioning struggles, stimming etc.  Though a child may not be able to use the traditional material now, over time, he may.

As a Montessori teacher at home or at school, the goal is to always use the traditional Montessori materials and present lessons in the prescribed manner. But in scenarios where that isn't possible with a child who has special needs, alternatives and extra resources are necessary.

The alternatives, resources, and ideas in this post have helped my children immensely.  Over time we've been able to progress to the traditional materials without the supports in many cases.  And in those areas where we can't yet, we're using resources that are as close to the original materials as possible.

The materials and resources in this post allow those who otherwise wouldn't be able to learn in a Montessori environment, do so in a way that is supportive of the method and all that Dr. Montessori stands for.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.
The ABCs of Montessori and Special Needs The Three Period Lesson Visual Prompts Special Needs Support and Resources

Alternative Montessori Counting and Number Materials and Resources for Children with Special Needs

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