Lower Elementary Curriculum

(grades 1, 2 & 3)

Lower Elementary: A Defining Period for Intellectual Reasoning

Dr. Montessori observed that lower elementary children typically are characterized by their reasoning minds, their ability to abstract and imagine, and their passion for research and exploration. Our lower elementary program is designed to encourage children to wonder, work, explore, and develop their interests with guidance from trained Montessori teachers.





The Decimal System: The Four Operations of Arithmetic in Lower Elementary

Fractions, Decimals, Percents and Money in Lower Elementary

Measurement in Lower Elementary

Statistics and Graphs during the six Elementary years

Pre-Algebra and Order of Operations during the six Elementary years

Summary of Lower Elementary Mathematical Fields of Study

Cultural: History

Cultural: Science

Life Science

Physical Science

Earth Science


Language is the foundation upon which we build all other elementary studies. We present the child with the practical tools for encoding and decoding words, sentences, and paragraphs, yet this is never seen as an isolated exercise.

Reading: Reading is a vital skill in everything we do. The Montessori Reading curriculum is a unique balance of phonics and whole language. The elementary classroom supports activities that gear themselves naturally toward the development of reading, writing, and speaking. We use guided reading as an accurate and consistent system for identifying the instructional and independent reading levels of all students and record student progress. Students are also assessed using the NWEA Map Test, and given a Lexile range that includes independent and instructional levels.


In our phonics program, the children are taught the specific sounds​ that letters and groups of letters make. Montessori materials such as sound boxes, phonogram lists, word family cards, and phonogram command cards are used in a sequential manner to teach these skills.  Whole language reading is based on books and materials that would be found in the school leveled library, classroom based library, and on Montessori language and grammar shelves. For example, the children use “leveled readers” to help promote reading fluency. In this way, the children can choose books that fit their own level and interests. Leveled readers complement our phonics reading approach, since the writing increases phonetic difficulty as the reading level goes up.


Novel and book studies are integrated across the curriculum, providing learning opportunities for students to make text and real-world connections. In this approach, children are exposed to quality authors, quality writing, and “real-world” stories through fiction, nonfiction, plays, and poems. Reading comprehension and critical thinking skills are fostered through group discussions, open-ended questions, and written responses.  Supplemental reading also occurs with many Montessori “works”. The children frequently work with Grammar boxes, Sky Scrapers, and S.R.A. Reading Laboratory stories.


Writing: The students learn the writing process with the 6-Trait Writing goals. Students engage in the ongoing writing process, to produce high quality writing and become a strong and independent writer.


6-Trait Writing is a logical approach via looking at writing one trait at a time. Focusing on one trait at a time helps writing activities become more manageable and interesting. 6-Trait Writing includes Ideas, Organization, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, Voice, and Conventions. The students also are exposed to many different types of writing – expository, descriptive, journal, persuasive, and poetry. 

Interwoven in our study of writing, we incorporate the function and study of words in our language curriculum.  Our language curriculum provides an unlimited scope for exploration on the part of the children.  The Montessori language materials provide the keys to the world of language, yet are effective in their simplicity. The grammar boxes provide the perfect setting for enrichment in syntax, and the sensorial grammar symbols reinforce each part of speech. The sentence analysis material provides children the opportunity to understand how the structure of a sentence relies on the function of words, with the action at the nucleus of the sentence.


Each material found on the shelf for math, is indirect preparation for dealing exclusively with concepts in the abstract terms. Our lessons center around hands-on Montessori math materials to teach beginning math concepts (such as place value, quantity/symbol association, and concrete addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division). Children learn through trial and error, self-discovery, and small-group lessons led by teachers. The materials quickly move the child to an abstraction of math concepts, including problem-solving, fractions, borrowing and carrying, graphing, measurement, and long division. 

In addition to Montessori manipulatives, we use supplemental works that cover the elementary math curriculum, along with various textbooks that complement specific concepts and skills. 


The Decimal System: The Four Operations of Arithmetic in Lower Elementary

Students use a variety of Montessori math materials to learn the processes of the four operations of arithmetic. Many of the materials used at the Primary level are still used in addition to new more advanced manipulatives. Students typically work with large numbers and are taught correct mathematical nomenclature from the beginning. There are also, in addition to these “process” materials, other materials to aid the memorization of math facts for all four operations. Reading and writing numbers up to one million is a Lower Elementary activity. Interesting variations are explored such as the use of parentheses, distributive property, and geometric aspects of multiplication. Word and money problems and the associated problem-solving skills are also presented.


Fractions, Decimals, Percents and Money in Lower Elementary

Students use materials to find equivalent fractions, work with improper fractions, and explore the four operations, including addition and subtraction with unlike denominators. They are introduced to the concept of a decimal fraction. The history of money is presented and simple operations with the units of US currency are begun.


Measurement in Lower Elementary

The divisions of the clock and the calendar are a major part of the Lower Elementary curriculum. This work is reinforced through the History curriculum, which also introduces historical time periods. Many tools of measurement are used, and students learn the basic standard and metric measures.


Statistics and Graphs during the six Elementary years

Data collecting and organization begins at the Lower Elementary level with surveys and learning to find the mean. Students learn how to represent data using a variety of graphs.

Pre-Algebra and Order of Operations during the six Elementary years

During the Lower Elementary years, students explore the commutative, associative, and distributive properties using various math materials. They work with positive and negative numbers using special materials.


Summary of Lower Elementary Mathematical Fields of Study Include:


Number Sense

Number sequencing

Place value

Place value

Math Facts



The Decimal System: Math Operations





Measurement and Time





Hours, minutes

Passage of time

Fractions and Money



Adding same denominators

Adding different

Identify coins

Coin value

Adding money

Word Problems-Problem-Solving




Geometry is a fascinating area of Montessori. Actual wooden shapes are used to master the terminology of all the plane figures and solids. Matching cards are used to introduce types and positions of lines, types and positions of angles, and special characteristics of shapes. Experimentation with other materials leads children to their own discoveries of spatial relationships, including congruence, symmetry, and equivalency. 



Geometric solids








Cultural: History

The history and social studies curriculum strives to introduce ideas that students can really ponder. The Great Lessons, developed by Maria Montessori, offer a panoramic view of the universe and a sense of humanity across time as the basis for learning. The great questions that arise from this view then serve as a blueprint for further study in all cultural areas. The origin of the universe, the formation of Earth, the fundamental needs of human beings, the history of writing, the measurement of time, early and modern humans, ancient civilizations, and American history are all introduced and studied.


IMS presents a school-wide, three-year cycle of content so special events such as cultural festivals, assemblies, field trips, and reading lists can be thematically planned for the whole school. The three-year cycle of Cultural Studies content—covering Ancient, American and World Civilizations. Each level delves into the year's subject according to its appropriate developmental capabilities. Students continue to study geography in more detail.  The structure of the Earth, physical geography, political geography, and mapping are included in the Elementary curriculum.  

Cultural: Science

The elementary years are a time of wonderment and awe. This underlies our approach to science education, as we seek to encourage and harness this natural inclination. Students engage in exploratory scientific pursuits inside the classroom and around the school grounds. A three-year cycle of content is again introduced, so special events such as cultural festivals, assemblies, field trips, and reading lists can be thematically planned for our Lower Elementary.


Life Science

  • Biology (kingdoms of life, systems of the human body)

  • Botany (classification of plants, form and function of plants, parts of plants, interdependencies of animals and plants)

  • Zoology (classification of animals, form and function of animals, parts of the animal, interdependencies of animals and plants)


Physical Science

  • The process of scientific inquiry

  • Composition of the earth

  • Three states of matter

  • Laws of attraction and gravity

  • Balance and motion


Earth Science

  • Ecosystems

  • Sun and earth

  • Air and weather

  • Land and water forms

  • Map skills (puzzle maps, pin maps)


Scientific Reasoning and Technology

Observation skills