Maria Montessori meticulously designed the materials and spaces that she created for young children. She considered all aspects of the environment and how they would support the child. Through her observations, she found one component to be particularly important, creating materials and environments that were self-correcting.
What is a self-correcting material? These materials allow the child to receive feedback from the work itself, rather than from another person. In other words, if the child has made a mistake, the material itself will let them know.
Why is this important? When children constantly hear outside feedback about their work, a few undesirable things can happen. They may begin to develop an inner dialogue which tells them that they aren’t good enough, that there will always be other people who are smarter or more capable. Another thing that can happen, is that the child begins to rely on this outside feedback or correction, rather than continuing to pursue and explore new challenges themselves. This young person may begin to only complete tasks in order to receive positive feedback or they may begin to not attempt to complete tasks at all because they want to avoid the negative feedback. Receiving feedback about your work is of course, very important. However, when we can give the child the power to discover this feedback themselves and to work on the corrections right in the moment, we have removed the extrinsic motivations or negative impacts created when all of their feedback comes from adults.
At Fiore, materials and environments are designed to give the child this type of feedback. The child is then given the time, space, and freedom to work through the feedback and master the material. One example of a self-correcting material in the primary environment, is the Spindle Boxes (pictured above). This material is an early math lesson that offers the child the experience of creating the quantities 0-9. The child identifies a number symbol on the box and counts out that number of spindles, placing them into the corresponding compartment. If the child counts correctly, they will have just enough spindles. If they have counted too many or too few spindles along the way, they will end up with extra spindles or will run out before their counting is complete. The child then receives the feedback that something has been miscounted. They then may choose to go back and recount the spindles. Other times, the child may decide to put the material away for now, but even then, an impression has been made. Next time, when they work with the Spindle Boxes, they will be more aware of their counting in the hopes of having just enough spindles this time.