The Pink Tower, iconic to the Montessori classroom, is a foundational material from the Sensorial Area of the curriculum. Sensorial materials help children express, classify, and broaden their sensory experiences. These are organized into categories: visual (sight), tactile (touch), auditory (sound), olfactory (smell) and gustatory (taste), and stereognostic (tactile – without sight). These materials are an integral part of developing the whole child — directly building the “mathematical mind” and indirectly preparing for writing.
The Pink Tower is composed of 10 pink wooden cubes stacked in order of size. The smallest cube measures 1cm cubed, and the largest is 10cm cubed. Importantly, the cubes in the Pink Tower are all the same color, shape and texture. This helps the child to focus on only one quality of the material – in this case, size. When beginning the activity, the child carefully takes each cube, one by one, to a work mat. The child then begins stacking the cubes in order from largest to smallest.
As with most Montessori materials, the Pink Tower has both direct and indirect purposes. Primarily, the Pink Tower helps a child build a concept of size in three dimensions. This includes working on visual perception and awareness of dimension, both leading to an understanding of size in the environment. Indirectly, the Pink Tower helps develop a child’s fine muscular coordination. Finally, the Pink Tower is a Montessori material which helps prepare children for abstract mathematical concepts. This includes preparation for the decimal system, geometry, spatial volume, and the cube root.
Another attribute of most Montessori materials is a built-in control of error. This means that the material is designed so that the child can see her own mistakes and correct them without needing assistance from an adult. As the child builds the tower, biggest to smallest, she might transpose one cube for another, but will quickly discover the error when the tower doesn’t look quite right. This built-in control of error promotes independence and problem solving skills.
Dr. Montessori developed her Sensorial curriculum well before “sensory play” was a concept. Dr. Montessori’s concept of training a child’s sensory system at a young age to integrate information in an orderly fashion was – and still is – ground-breaking.
Learn more about the Maryland Center for Montessori Studies.