Wooden Hierarchical Material – Number Cards

Wooden Hierarchical Material –

Number Cards


Questions have arisen over the last few years in regards to elementary materials – more and more this is happening as elementary Montessori is extending out into the homeschool world and families are finding that some of the primary and elementary materials overlap – but which ones and how?

Partly, this depends on the albums you are using. Sorry I can’t be more specific about that!


A recent and ongoing discussion/sharing about the woodern hierarchical number cards though brings this situation of discrepancies to the forefront. Let’s look at this material:

At primary, the children can receive this presentation – it uses place-value colored number cards with spaces between the hierarchies, NO commas. These cards are available for download in a number of locations – free or for purchase – or can easily be handmade.

At elementary, the child should get this work again (or for the first time), because now, there is a new component: The Comma. The primary level colored cards can be used, just add a green comma after each number, such that when the cards are stacked in number formation, you have the following number:

1, 111, 111

Those of you who have been following the recent blog posts and various discussions may recall one more aspect: some elementary albums describe the elementary number cards as being written in black (and still with a comma).

In our homeschool and co-op, we used the colored ones.

In schools, I have seen both in use. I personally did not witness much difference in how the children worked with the material. There was something I saw in one of my student observations while I was in training, but I didn’t understand what the child was trying to do; when I attempted to re-create the child’s work during practicum time in my training, the trainers “got after me” and wouldn’t let me finish. I never did get back to it and now the nuances have been lost. I will never figure out what the child was pondering. It may have had something to do with the number cards and colors, or perhaps not.

A few Montessori homeschoolers have recently reported a strong preference for the color because it continues to emphasize place value – with the very concrete wooden hierarchical material (or not so wooden depending on your material of choice 😉 ), some children are discovering a conscious understanding of place value for the first time.


How great is that!


So primary: colored, no commas

Elementary: colored (could be black), with commas

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