How to use the Stereognostic Sense to Learn Geometry Shapes (TUTORIAL+VIDEO)

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geometry shapes learning with stereognostic sense

Typical educational material to develop the stereognostic sense

The Mini Mystery Bag Geometry Shapes is an important work for children and the Montessori child in particular. This bag helps teach the children about the geometric shapes using the stereognostic sense.

Read our article to have more details on the purpose and benefits of the stereognostic sense in every children education. But first, here’s a video to have more information about the typical educational material which allows little-ones to learn geometry shapes while using their stereognostic sense. Then, we’ll give details on how to introduce a child to this mysterious sense.

There are 10 wooden geometric 3-dimensional shapes in a small drawstring bag. These shapes are as follows:

  • Square based pyramid
  • Cylinder
  • Triangular based pyramid (note that they look the same except for their base)
  • Rectangular prism
  • Sphere
  • Triangular prism (do note that this looks a lot like the triangular prism but, again, with a different base, a triangular one)
  • Cube
  • Cone

And then two round objects. One is an ovoid and the other is an ellipsoid. The difference is that the ovoid has a slight egg like shape whereas the ellipse is oval.

geometry shapes learning with stereognostic sense overview

These geometric wooden blocks are very beautiful and can be used in many different ways. For example, you can play a game with the child by putting all of the geometric shapes inside of the bag.

Geometry shapes learning with stereognostic sense - The montessori mystery bag

You can take turns by taking one out and guessing what shape it is before you put it on the rug. As you’re feeling it in the bag you should be saying”. Hmm, is it flat, is it round, does it have corners...?” seeing if you can guess which geometric shape it is. Children love this game and it’s an easy game for them to play with a friend or another adult. This way they can practise learning their geometric three dimensional shapes without the need of an adult always being there. Once they learn the names of the shapes they can practise with a younger sibling or a friend. Montessori loved teaching children games, because she felt like it made the work more interesting. The options are endless with these beautiful wooden geometric blocks.

The aim of the Mystery Bag Montessori activity (Age - 3 1/2 -4years old)

This sensorial Montessori activity’s purpose is visual discrimination but as with all Montessori activities it aims to develop more than just one skill. It is also a tool to learn and increase language, vocabulary and concentration. The Montessori Mini Mystery Bag Geometry Shapes is a mini version of the original equipment and is available in our store.

The direct aim of this activity was developed by Dr Maria Montessori to refine and develop the stereognostic tactile sense and memory of a child. The indirect aim is language and vocabulary development and also to learn the skill of concentrating. 

The benefits of Stereognosis and the Stereognostic sense for children

Stereognosis is the ability to perceive and recognise the form of an object in the absence of visual and auditory information, by using tactile information to provide cues from texture, size, spacial properties and temperature etc.”- Wikipedia.

What this means is that the stereognostic sense is the ability to identify and recognise objects based on touch alone without being able to see, smell, taste or hear the objects. The child has to learn to recognise and describe the shapes by using their hands, while they are in the bag, without being able to see them. They have to feel them and identify them by touch alone. Doing this task develops the stereognostic sense of touch to create a mental picture of the object in the child’s mind which he is then able to recognise, remember and describe.

geometry shapes learning with stereognostic sense tutorial

The Montessori Mini Mystery Bag Geometry Shapes is preparation for geometry where the child will study 3D shapes. It is a beginning maths skill that is being introduced very early on in preparation for later geometry learning. The child will be familiar with the geometric shapes and their names and properties because he has learned them through play, touch and feel rather than just having observed a picture in a book. They will be real to him and not just a concept that he struggles to grasp and in this way lays the foundation for the more complicated and advanced geometry concepts that come later in math's learning using educational material for math's learning. Children will learn to use everyday language to describe the size and weight of the wooden shapes, and also to compare the different shapes to each other.

“What the hand does, the mind remembers” - Dr Maria Montessori

The Montessori Mini Mystery Bag Geometry Shapes encourages language and vocabulary development. When the child is doing the activity, he or she will learn to describe the wooden shaped blocks and ask questions to differentiate them from each other e.g.-why are the shapes different? are they smooth or do they have angles? Are they square or are they triangular?

By doing this the children will increase their vocabulary and also improve their language skills. Following this, they will learn to use mathematical/geometry terms to name the 3D geometric shapes, cylinder, ovoid, ellipse, sphere and so on.

4 different ways to use the Mini Mystery Bag Geometry Shapes

According to Dr Montessori, sensorial experiences begin at birth. Children use their senses to study their environment. By doing sensorial activities, children can absorb and learn information that helps them to classify their surrounding environment which in turn gives the child the ability to adapt to and thrive in that environment.  Montessori sensorial activities and tasks help broaden and refine a child’s senses and it also helps them become more logical, perceptive and aware. In Montessori philosophy the child is considered to be a “sensorial explorer” and encouraged to learn in this way. As they encounter new things and learn about them the knowledge remains with them because of the physical interaction. They are “learning through doing”.

The Montessori Mini Mystery Bag Geometry Shapes is for children aged from 3 1/2 -4years old.

geometry shapes learning stereognostic sense presentation

There are many games that can be played using this activity. One way is to show the child the contents of the bag, name the shapes and then place them back into the bag. The child is invited to close his eyes, put his hand into the bag and find a shape. He has to name the shape without looking at it, before he removes it from the bag. The control of error is visual. If he takes the shape from the bag and it is not the shape he has named, he will be able to see for himself that it is incorrect. This allows him a sense of control. He can see he is wrong by himself, he doesn’t need someone else to point it out for him. He can return the incorrect shape to the bag and try to find the correct one or he can simply choose another one and try again. He will continue until he has all the shapes on the mat in front of him.

A variation on this activity would be to invite the child to choose and name a shape without showing him the contents of the bag.

Another way that is a little more advanced, is to ask the child to close his eyes and reach into the bag to find a particular shape. He will feel the different shapes and choose the one that he thinks is the correct one. When he removes it from the bag he will again be able to see for himself whether he is right or wrong.

To further advance this task, extra items can be added to the bag, different shapes or even different objects. This will be much later on though, only after the child has managed to master different variations successfully.

The importance of Montessori Pedagogy

A little about the Montessori pedagogy. Dr Maria Montessori was a 19th century physician and educator who observed that human beings teach themselves when given a rich child-centred environment i.e. an environment that is specifically prepared with the child’s development in mind. The Montessori Method of education is a child-centred educational approach based on her scientific observations of children. The Montessori Method sees the child as someone who is naturally eager to learn and gain knowledge and also able to initiate learning by themselves in a prepared environment. Her method of education attempts to develop children physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively.

Children get to choose which activity they would like to do from a prescribed range of options. So, they may choose which particular task they would like to work on, but it is not an unlimited choice. Thus there is freedom within limits. The children are also allowed uninterrupted periods of work time. In this way they are able to work at their own pace and own level and are not dictated to by limited time for each activity.

The activities or tasks are all based on a discovery process of learning, where children learn concepts from working directly with Montessori materials individually, rather than by being instructed in a group class by a teacher. Again this allows children to work at their own pace and their own developmental level. They are not being compared to other children of the same age who may be faster or slower developmentally.

Early Childhood Education and the prepared environment

A prepared environment is an educational environment that is tailored to cater to the specific characteristics of children at different ages and to the individual personalities of each child. The function of the environment is to help and allow the child to develop independence in all areas according to his or her inner psychological directives.

In the prepared environment, all materials are organised by subject area, where the children can reach them with ease and all Montessori materials are of the appropriate size for small hands.

Based on her observations, Dr Montessori believed that children who are able to choose and act freely within an environment prepared according to her model would act spontaneously to choose and perform the tasks with interest and of their own inclination and thereby achieve optimal development. The learning environment should be arranged so that there is room for the children to move freely and be active. It should be neat, ordered, clean and peaceful and the proportions should be suited to the children’s size and their needs.

Montessori education is an alternative way of learning regarding early childhood education. Montessori is at its core a model of human development and there are different characteristics, learning modes and developmental steps that require specific educational approaches for each period of development and learning of the child. Maria Montessori described the period of birth to about six years of age as the “absorbent mind”. This is the time when children learn to use their senses, develop language, learn about their culture and begin to grasp concepts. They begin to explore their environment and start to develop skills such as the acquisition of language.

Children need order in their world and in this period of their lives they begin to learn and thrive on order. They start to use and refine their sensory skills. Social behaviour becomes a part of their environment and they begin to learn how to interact with other people, both adults and children, how to behave and what behaviour is acceptable or unacceptable. Children always have an interest in small objects and they want to investigate them by using touch, feel taste and smell.

Dr Montessori observed in children from 3-6 years a state she termed “normalisation”. Normalisation is the state of concentration and focus on an activities that serves the child’s developmental needs. It is characterised by the ability to concentrate as well as “spontaneous” discipline, continuous and happy work and social sentiments of help and sympathy for others.

Why you should get the Montessori Mini Mystery Bag Geometry Shapes:

The Montessori Mini Mystery Bag Geometry Shapes is not seen as a task or work by the child but rather as a fun activity, a game to be played and a challenge to be overcome. The sense of achievement when all the shapes have been correctly found and named is empowering and satisfying for the child and builds his confidence.

“The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn”-Dr Maria Montessori

And what better way to learn than through a fun and challenging task that is viewed by the child as a game, rather than work.


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