Pilar over at Montessori Matters in receiving her training in Bergamo, Italy (read the holy grail of training facilities for AMI teachers) and has just posted a wonderful discussion about the purpose of the materials.
I was thinking about something similar today. BW was presented with Stamp Game Addition yesterday. He is six and was not presented it in his Casa program. He settled down to doing the basic problems first units to units and then progressing up to hundreds added to hundreds. This seemed to be a work with which he was able to manage his counting. (Often he counts quickly and over counts numbers.)
He had used the materials with concentration until he didn’t need them anymore. He doesn’t understand the operation as deeply as he could, however he didn’t need the materials and moved to his mind. Materials teach until they aren’t needed. If we force the child to use the materials an “acceptable” length of time, we make learning onerous and rob it of joy.