In the 1940s, there appeared a book called Mathematics for the Million by Lancelot Hogben. It was designed to place the abstruse realm of mathematics within everyone's reach. In looking for a title for this book, I thought at first of taking a leaf out of Hogben's and calling it Montessori for the Million, for my purpose is to show that the teachings of the great Maria Montessori are directly relevant to the education of everyone, at every level. But then, bearing in mind that we are rapidly approaching the millennium, which symbolizes the heralding of a new age, I decided to transmute it to Montessori for the New Millennium.
What is astonishing to me is that, although by now, in the late 1990s, the name of Montessori is almost universally known, and there are countless nursery schools throughout the world using the Montessori method, the real core of Montessori's thinking has continued to remain largely misunderstood. Most people regard the method as a system for the education only of children of kindergarten age. And most of those having some direct experience of it, whether as parent or teacher, would almost certainly regard this method as involving certain set procedures and a large amount of specialist material with elaborate instructions for its use. But in reality the essence of Montessori's philosophy of education was far broader than that, and contained a powerful message for all educationalists. In Montessori's mind it was a message that was relevant to the future of mankind as a whole.
I was fortunate enough to know Maria Montessori very well in the late 1920s and early 1930s, first as a disciple and later as a personal friend, and so had a unique opportunity of studying her system at its very source. Like many others I and my first wife, Hélène Lubienska de Lenval, were caught up in a wave of enthusiasm for the profound wisdom of her message. Under the influence of that message, I subsequently dedicated most of my life to working as a teacher, both in Montessori and traditional schools, and as a university lecturer. During this time I also wrote, lectured, and had many discussions with Montessori practitioners. At the same time, I gradually developed a whole new approach to the way mathematics is taught, based on Montessori's own embryonic thinking and from the outset with her personal approval and encouragement. I believe therefore that I am particularly well placed to bring together all the strands that . . .