In this section you will find interesting perspectives on Montessori Education from:
- Graduates of Montessori schools
- Parents of Montessori students
- Research findings about Montessori education
- Wall Street Journal article: “The Montessori Mafia”
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The Montessori educational approach might be the surest route to joining the creative elite, which are so overrepresented by the school’s alumni: Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, videogame pioneer Will Wright, and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, not to mention Julia Child.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Founders of Google.com credit Their Montessori Education for Much of Their Success
On the Barbara Walters ABC-TV Special “The 10 Most Fascinating People Of 2004″ Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of the popular Internet search engine Google.com, credited their years as Montessori students as a major factor behind their success. When Barbara Walters asked if the fact that their parents were college professors was a factor behind their success, they said no, that it was their going to a Montessori school where they learned to be self-directed and self-starters. They said that Montessori education allowed them to learn to think for themselves and gave them freedom to pursue their own interests.
Jeff Bezos Founder of Amazon.com, Inc: The Wizard of Web Retailing
“As a preschooler, Jeffrey P. Bezos displayed an unmatched single-mindedness. By his mother’s account, the young Bezos got so engrossed in the details of activities at his Montessori school that teachers had to pick him up in his chair to move him to new tasks. It’s a trait that goes a long way toward explaining why the company he founded, Amazon.com Inc., has survived to become the most dominant retailer on the Internet.”
Maria Montessori: The 138 Year Old Inspiration behind Spore
William Wright, an American computer game designer was educated at a local Montessori school, where he enjoyed its emphasis on creativity, problem solving, and self-motivation. Wright admitted to having been inspired to create certain elements of SimCity from his experiences in the school. “Montessori taught me the joy of discovery…It showed you can become interested in pretty complex theories, like Pythagorean theory, say, by playing with blocks. It’s all about learning on your terms, rather than a teacher explaining stuff to you. SimCity comes right out of Montessori—if you give people this model for building cities, they will abstract from it principles of urban design.” His greatest success to date came as the original designer for The Sims games series which, as of 2008, is the best-selling PC game in history.
NY Times Bestseller on Motivation Praises Montessori Schools
Daniel Pink’s new bestseller Drive discusses our changing understanding of motivation and what leads to high performance and success, especially as we advance into the 21st century. Within that context, Mr. Pink showcases Montessori as one of a select group of “forward-thinking” educational models that “get it” when it comes to education and motivation.
About Montessori schools Mr. Pink writes: “Many of the key tenets of a Montessori education resonate with the principles of Motivation 3.0 — that children naturally engage in self-directed learning and independent study; that teachers should act as observers and facilitators of that learning, and not as lecturers or commanders; and that children are naturally inclined to experience periods of intense focus, concentration, and flow that adults should do their best not to interrupt. Although Montessori schools are rare at the junior high and high school levels, every school, educator, and parent can learn from its enduring and successful approach.” (from Drive by Daniel H. Pink, 2009, p. 182)
How Do Innovators Think? (Harvard Business Review)
Here is an excerpt from a recent Harvard Business Review blog by Bronwyn Fryer discussing his interview with Professors Jeff Dyer and Clay Christensen about how successful innovators think.
This excerpt calls attention to early influences including Montessori education.
“We also believe that the most innovative entrepreneurs were very lucky to have been raised in an atmosphere where inquisitiveness was encouraged. We were stuck by the stories they told about being sustained by people who cared about experimentation and exploration. Sometimes these people were relatives, but sometimes they were neighbors, teachers or other influential adults. A number of the innovative entrepreneurs also went to Montessori schools, where they learned to follow their curiosity. To paraphrase the famous Apple ad campaign, innovators not only learned early on to think different, they act different (and even talk different).”
Also, there is an interesting discussion of Montessori in the comment section and how some famous Montessori-educated innovators connect their work to their Montessori roots.
My child, who has ADHD and dysgraphia, was in tears every day at his traditional school until we bit the bullet and moved him to a private Montessori school 3 years ago, where he continues to thrive. He is happy, confident, industrious, and kind. He has many friends, loves to act in class plays, and willingly works with his teacher’s guidance and support to overcome his attentional issues. He is motivated, passionate about issues of fairness and equality, and a lover of the environment. Yeah, he’s smart, too. But he was smart when he went to the traditional school.
- 11:15 am May 11, 2011
- Lagis Zavros wrote:
It’s great to see the results of Montessori in such diverse areas as Business, The Arts & Entertainment, Academia etc. As parents of two well rounded individuals who went through Montessori from the age of 3 right through to 17, we feel privileged for this experience. Their adaptation to mainstream tertiary education was second nature and their development into self disciplined, creative, considerate, questioning and reasonable adults is our evidence of the benefit they had from the Montessori journey.
- HH wrote:
Critics often say, “Montessori is not right for every child”. Maybe this is true. But I can assure you, traditional education’s “one size fits all” approach is DEFINITELY not right for every child.
- 7:57 am May 18, 2011
- Nancy Colleran wrote:
We have 3 daughters, one of whom went to Montessori for pre-school and kindergarten. The other two to a traditional pre-school and public kindergarten then all three to Catholic elementary school with the youngest, Montessori child on to Catholic high school.
All three have been/are very successful young adults. They are college educated, and have successful careers. The oldest is a Montessori teacher and owns her own Montessori pre-school in Washington state. When our youngest, the Montessori child who was also a late in life child and much separated in ages from her sisters, is indeed a self motivated learner and gets lost in self discovery.
I often think this might be a result of Montessori methods, as I was very impressed with the various child centered tools, equipment, available to children in their classrooms. The gold beads just about blew me away. I do think that I might better understand the basis of math if I had had that experience. Also the tools to learn about geography and topography are so hands-on and visual, tactile, that one can’t help but learn the difference between a continent, an island, peninsula, isthmus, and others–then the cultures associated with the places are also available.
Fantastic!! I do think all of our schools would benefit from this type of “teaching.” As I mentioned, all of our daughters are intelligent and self motivated individuals; however, that might have a lot to do with their parenting and genetic make up–my Mom would certainly think so!
The Importance of Kindergarten
A new study shows that quality kindergarten really pays off for students. Harvard economists found that kids with better kindergarten teachers earned more when they were in their twenties than those with worse teachers. But many education experts say that there is a crisis in today’s kindergarten classes — testing and drilling has replaced imaginative play. At what cost? Harvard economist Raj Chetty talks about his study “How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect your Earnings” and to Temple University psychologist, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, discusses what’s missing from kindergarten today. She also discusses the benefits of a Montessori education.
Clark Montessori Jr. & Sr. High School in Cincinnati, Ohio (the first public Montessori high school in the nation) Earns National Recognition in Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge.
Montessori Education Provides Better Outcomes than Traditional Methods, Study Indicates (Science)
A study comparing outcomes of children at a public inner-city Montessori school with children who attended traditional schools indicates that Montessori education leads to children with better social and academic skills.
To read the article in the Sept. 29, 2006 issue of the journal Science go to http://www.montessori-science.org/, click on Articles, and then click on “Early Years: Evaluating Montessori Education.”
Wall Street Journal Article
“The Montessori Mafia” by Peter Sims
April 5, 2011
The article is entitled The Montessori Mafia; it discusses the results of a new study conducted by professors from Brigham Young University, which found that a disproportionate number of entrepreneurs who start new businesses or invent new products are Montessori alumni. The article also describes the role Montessori education played in contributing to the life long success and love of learning of many famous Montessori alumni (including Julia Child, Anne Frank, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and Google founders Larry Page, and Sergei Brin) and the evidence from Milwaukee cohort studies which demonstrates that Montessori students often have better executive function, problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, better reading and math skills, and are more prepared for elementary school than non-Montessori students. The Milwaukee study is one of the most conclusive studies of the Montessori educational method, because the children in the experiment were randomly assigned to Montessori and non-Montessori schools; as a result, socio-economic status, parenting philosophy, parent education, and other common variables were controlled.
Over the years, Montessori has enjoyed a number of famous teachers and advocates (Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Mister Rogers, Woodrow Wilson, Alice Waters, Erik Erikson, and Jean Piaget among others). Although most classroom guides like to think that the proof our of method comes in the calm, joyful expressions on the faces of children who are concentrating deeply and developing a life long love of learning right in front of us, it is certainly nice to get a little positive press and the support of an increasing body of scientific research as well!
It may seem like a laughable “only in New York” story that Manhattan mother, Nicole Imprescia, is suing her 4-year-old daughter’s untraditional private preschool for failing to prepare her for a private school admissions exam.
But her daughter’s future and ours might be much brighter with a little less conditioning to perform well on tests and more encouragement to discover as they teach in Montessori schools. Ironically, the Montessori educational approach might be the surest route to joining the creative elite, which are so overrepresented by the school’s alumni that one might suspect a Montessori Mafia: Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, videogame pioneer Will Wright, and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, not to mention Julia Child and rapper Sean “P.Diddy” Combs.
Is there something going on here? Is there something about the Montessori approach that nurtures creativity and inventiveness that we can all learn from?
After all, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison were famous life-long tinkerers, who discovered new ways of doing things by constantly improvising, experimenting, failing, and retesting. Above all they were voraciously inquisitive learners.
The Montessori learning method, founded by Maria Montessori, emphasizes a collaborative environment without grades or tests, multi-aged classrooms, as well as self-directed learning and discovery for long blocks of time, primarily for young children ages 2 1/2 to 7.
The Montessori Mafia showed up in an extensive, six-year study about the way creative business executives think. Professors Jeffrey Dyer of Brigham Young University and Hal Gregersen of globe-spanning business school INSEAD surveyed over 3,000 executives and interviewed 500 people who had either started innovative companies or invented new products.
“A number of the innovative entrepreneurs also went to Montessori schools, where they learned to follow their curiosity,” Mr. Gregersen said. “To paraphrase the famous Apple ad campaign, innovators not only learned early on to think different, they act different (and even talk different).”
When Barbara Walters, who interviewed Google founders Messrs. Page and Brin in 2004, asked if having parents who were college professors was a major factor behind their success, they instead credited their early Montessori education. “We both went to Montessori school,” Mr. Page said, “and I think it was part of that training of not following rules and orders, and being self-motivated, questioning what’s going on in the world, doing things a little bit differently.”
Will Wright, inventor of bestselling “The Sims” videogame series, heaps similar praise. “Montessori taught me the joy of discovery,” Mr. Wright said, “It’s all about learning on your terms, rather than a teacher explaining stuff to you. SimCity comes right out of Montessori…”
Meanwhile, according to Jeff Bezos’s mother, young Jeff would get so engrossed in his activities as a Montessori preschooler that his teachers would literally have to pick him up out of his chair to go to the next task. “I’ve always felt that there’s a certain kind of important pioneering that goes on from an inventor like Thomas Edison,” Mr. Bezos has said, and that discovery mentality is precisely the environment that Montessori seeks to create.
Neuroscience author Jonah Lehrer cites a 2006 study published in Science that compared the educational achievement performance of low-income Milwaukee children who attended Montessori schools versus children who attended a variety of other preschools, as determined by a lottery.
By the end of kindergarten, among 5-year-olds, “Montessori students proved to be significantly better prepared for elementary school in reading and math skills than the non-Montessori children,” according to the researchers. “They also tested better on “executive function,” the ability to adapt to changing and more complex problems, an indicator of future school and life success.”
Of course, Montessori methods go against the grain of traditional educational methods. We are given very little opportunity, for instance, to perform our own, original experiments, and there is also little or no margin for failure or mistakes. We are judged primarily on getting answers right. There is much less emphasis on developing our creative thinking abilities, our abilities to let our minds run imaginatively and to discover things on our own.
But most highly creative achievers don’t begin with brilliant ideas, they discover them.
Google, for instance, didn’t begin as a brilliant vision, but as a project to improve library searches, followed by a series of small discoveries that unlocked a revolutionary business model. Larry Page and Sergei Brin didn’t begin with an ingenious idea. But they certainly discovered one.
Similarly, Amazon’s culture breathes experimentation and discovery. Mr. Bezos often compares Amazon’s strategy of developing ideas in new markets to “planting seeds” or “going down blind alleys.” Amazon’s executives learn and uncover opportunities as they go. Many efforts turn out to be dead ends, Mr. Bezos has said, “But every once in a while, you go down an alley and it opens up into this huge, broad avenue.”
Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that Montessori alumni lead two of the world’s most innovative companies. Or perhaps the Montessori Mafia of can provide lessons for us all even though it’s too late for most of us to attend Montessori.
We can change the way we’ve been trained to think. That begins in small, achievable ways, with increased experimentation and inquisitiveness. Those who work with Mr. Bezos, for example, find his ability to ask “why not?” or “what if?” as much as “why?” to be one of his most advantageous qualities. Questions are the new answers.