Montessorium builds apps like Intro to Colors with the Montessori approach to learning in mind.
In August 2010, a startup team from Sioux Falls got an unexpected message from Apple founder Steve Jobs.
“The kids and parents will prove you right,” he wrote. “Keep going.”
Since then, their apps have been featured in two Apple commercials and on billboards across the globe. Recently their fifth app, Intro to Colors, was featured in the new and noteworthy section of iTunes and received spot on the banner in the web store’s education section.
Intro to Colors is the latest in a catalog of apps centered around the Montessori approach to learning. The app is based on Montessori color tablets––a series of cards that sport one color each. In some early childhood education classrooms, the concept of color is taught by using objects, a red apple for example. Problems can arise, however, when a child can’t associate the color red with the object of the apple. Show the same child a green apple and they may identify it as red.
“We need to focus on the concrete, so you have to give them an appreciation of what (color) is by isolating that concept,” said George (right). “And once you have an appreciation of that concept, then you can apply it to the world.”
The app tries to isolate concepts by first introducing kids to the primary colors. From there, it allows them to mix these hues to create secondary colors and gain a more fundamental understanding of the way colors interact. The app also helps kids understand how to create different shades and gradients from these basic building blocks.
Montessori education also stresses the importance of individual attention for each student, and the Montessorium founders hope their apps can provide another outlet for individual learning.
“In the absence of having a teacher there with them, the app will walk them through just as we would do it hands-on with a child, one-on-one,” said George.
When the company released their first app in 2010, George says some Montessori traditionalists were “hostile.” In Montessori learning, children traditionally aren’t introduced to technology until age six.
But just as Jobs said, time and the kids have proven Montessorium right.
“Whereas three years ago we would have been on the cover of a Montessori magazine decrying what we’re doing, we’re now featured on the magazine as: ‘Look at the awesome bridge they’re building between the classroom and the home environment,'” George said. “We really do think that there’s value being imparted through these apps.”
Currently, the three-person team is working on new iterations of some of its older apps and looking to the future. The founders hopes to produce an entire classroom of app-based activities.
“(Traditionalists) understand that the kids are going to be playing with apps so instead of playing with some app that’s mind-numbing, they look at us and value (our apps) as an alternative to that,” said George.