Montessori helps children reach their full potential in schools all around the world.

Montessori education is 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 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.

Basic principles of Montessori education

Based on scientific observation

Montessori education is based on scientific observations of human development. Dr. Maria Montessori, a scientist and a medical doctor, based her approach on thousands of hours of observation of children and a lifetime of experimentation and refinement, developing a scientific model of human development and an education approach that supports fully realized human potential.


Developmental stages

Montessori observed distinct stages of development in children. The model recognizes birth to six as an intense period of formative development with lasting cognitive, social, and emotional consequences, the elementary years as a peak learning period, and adolescence as a time of social development and intellectual maturation. Montessori practice for each age group responds to children’s characteristics at that age.


Choice

Montessori recognized the importance of student choice in education as a foundation for deep engagement and the development of independence.

Essential elements of Montessori practice

Children choose their own work

Children choose their own activities from a range of carefully prepared lessons and materials designed to support children’s natural development and drive to learn.


Trained teachers support children’s development

Teachers trained in Montessori principles and practice present a comprehensive curriculum individualized for each child.


Mixed age groupings

Classrooms serve children in three-year age groupings according to developmental stages. Children can progress naturally as they are ready for more challenging material, build authentic community and learn from both teachers and peers.


Uninterrupted independent work periods

Classrooms offer long uninterrupted periods for independent work, where children build attention, focus, and concentration, while learning at their own pace.


Montessori materials

Hands-on, concrete, self-correcting materials support engagement, curiosity, independence, and self-guided learning.

Montessori schools around the world.

There about 20,000 Montessori schools around the world, including 5,000 in the U.S., of which more than 500 are public schools — district, magnet, and charters.

Each school operates independently, but there are several national organizations schools can join and seek accreditation with if they choose. The two largest organizations are the Association Montessori Internationale-USA (AMI-USA) and the American Montessori Society (AMS).

School structures

Montessori schools can be independent, funded by tuition, or public, funded by public money. Some tuition-based schools use philanthropic support and public subsidies to serve low-income populations.

Montessori schools typically group children in developmentally driven age groupings:

  • fifteen months to three years old
  • three to six years old (PK3-K)
  • six to nine years old (1st to 3rd grade)
  • nine to twelve years old (4th to 6th grade)
  • twelve to fifteen years old (7th to 9th grade)
  • fifteen to eighteen years old (10th to 12th grade)

Montessori class sizes are often larger than typical classes — 20 to 25 for preschool and kindergarten, and 25 to 30 for 1st through 6th grade.

Classes are typically staffed by a Montessori trained teacher and an assistant.

Montessori Teachers

Montessori teacher preparation typically requires several months to a year of training, sometimes spread out over several summer sessions. Public Montessori teachers typically hold state teaching licenses as well.

Montessori Teachers

Research Resources:

Does it Work? What the Research Says
A two-page summary of Montessori outcomes, with citations.

Annotated Bibliography
A selected bibliography of recent research

Annotated Bibliography by claim
Detailed citations for Montessori outcomes

We created a series of short videos that illustrate key elements of Montessori.

Montessori Videos

What Does a Public Montessori School Look Like?

The National Center for Montessori in the Public creating a series of short videos that illustrate key elements of Montessori. This video takes you inside a Montessori classroom.

1. Collaboration

2. Hands On Learning

3. Teaching as Guidance

4. Community

5. Independence

6. Concentration

Concentration