If you have a child enrolled in a Montessori school, you might have heard the phrase “isolation of difficulty” before. It’s a critical term, so it can be helpful to have an understanding of the concept. It’s often poorly misunderstood, or there is some confusion as to what the term actually refers to. A simple online search, for example, will bring up multiple definitions. This blog post will clarify the term and go into some detail about what isolation of difficulty is.
Many Montessori products and materials are plain coloured, or are often the same colours, in order to help children with their isolation of difficulty. The object of isolation is embedded into the Montessori products and materials themselves, and the materials are designed so that the child will discover it. The idea is that by removing the array of colours from the teaching materials, the child can focus on the actual concept and problem that they are required to solve. In other words, it allows them to isolate the difficulty.
Remember: Montessori is based on child-centred, individualized learning. Extraneous elements of various teaching materials can prevent children from understanding what’s being asked of them. If you’re still unclear about what we mean, an example will be given below. In an individualized learning environment like Montessori, where the child often leads the way, it is critical that they have a thorough understanding of the problem.
Let’s imagine that a child is matching a set of numbered blocks that are a bunch of different colours. The child might match the blocks based on the colours instead of the numbers. If the intention was for the child to match the blocks based on the numbers, then the different colours prevented the child from understanding what was being asked of them. The object of isolation is embedded into Montessori products and materials to simplify the child’s isolation of difficulty and allow the child to perceive the problem much faster than they otherwise would.
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