The Pink Tower (buy here) is a traditional Montessori material and a second sensorial material to be introduced to a toddler starting at around 2 years, after introducing the Knobbed Cylinders (read a post here). The Pink Tower looks like a simple building blocks pyramid toy, but instead, it exposes a toddler to early algebra, more precisely to algebraic series of the third power, usually taught in fifth grade!
The Tower consists of ten pink wooden cubes with width graduated in increments from 1 cm (which is 3/8" on each side) to 10 cm or one cubic centimeter to one cubic decimeter. Any two successive cubes vary in three dimensions: length, width and height, thus making their difference in size reasonably obvious to a child. Pink Tower is a material for teaching size, where cubes increase progressively in the algebraic series of the third power according to the numerical series, i.e., the first cube has an edge of 1 cm, the second of 2 cm etc. Thus, the relation in volume between them is that of the cubes of the series of numbers from 1-10, i.e., 1 : 8: 27 : 64: 125 : 216 : 343 : 512 : 729 : 1000. In fact, to make up the volume of the second pink cube, eight of the first little cubes would be required; to make up the volume of the third, 27 would be required, and so on.
Adrian was successful at building Pink Tower at 24 months, the first time the material was introduced.
Lesson: While Pink Tower is standing assembled, show a child how to carry the cubes to a floor mat:
- For 1-4 cubes starting from the smallest, use the first three fingers to grasp each cube over the top and place it randomly on the floor mat. (By holding the first few cubes with the thumb, index and middle fingers, the "pencil grip" will prepare a child for holding a pencil and eventually writing).
- From the 4th – 7th cube, a child may use one whole hand to bring each cube to the mat.
- The last three cubes, if they are too big for a child to hold with one whole hand, a child may use both hands to carry it to the mat, by balancing the bottom of the cube with the palm of the other hand.
All the cubes shall be placed at random on the floor mat, and a child will build a tower starting with the largest cube.
I like to see challenge in my child's eyes, so I probably could have introduced this activity earlier, but I followed the suggested age and first introduced Pink Tower to Adrian at 24 months (2 years). He was able to correctly build it in a standing position from the first try, and in the process, he was learning size, dimension, order and was developing his concentration. Also, this activity is self-correcting, as it is obvious to a toddler when the cubes are not progressively larger or smaller.
To put away the activity, a child, starting with the smallest cube. first would randomly put all the cubes back on the mat. Then, by taking the largest cube, a child will place the cubes back on the shelve or on the stand. The purpose of this material is to develop coordination of movement and visual and tactile perception of dimensions. And although, Pink Tower indirectly exposes a toddler to the algebraic series of the third power, it is still a sensorial rather than a math material. The control of error: if the tower is not built correctly, it will topple. If the blocks are not placed in gradated order, the blocks will not fit correctly, making an error obvious to the child to self-correct.
Silhouette cards are "flat" two-dimensional Pink Tower. A toddler would match each cube to its corresponding print-out size. Cards are also numbered one through ten, introducing number to cube association.
An extension to Pink Tower's standing position is to offer a child to build the tower horizontally on the floor mat. Also, to offer a toddler an opportunity for movement, I generally keep the Pink Tower in the other room, so that Adrian would happily run each time to retrieve the next cube.
Once the Pink Tower is built horizontally, I will show that each cube is 1-small-cube bigger then the next by placing the smallest cube on each successive cube and showing that they are the same level. Adrian will use his index finger to double-check that.
You may also introduce language by presenting a Montessori 3🅿️🌠 Three Period Lesson with two cubes: smallest vs. biggest. I first presented a 3🅿️🌠 Period Lesson when Adrian was 25 months. P1: “This is small; This is big”; P2: “Show/bring me small/big”; P3: "What is this?”
As the child masters small vs. big, you may want to add another cube: now presenting a3🅿️🌠 Period Lesson with three cubes: big vs. bigger vs. biggest: P1” “This is big; this is bigger; this is biggest!" P2: "Show me…". P3: "What is this?"
Alternative language may be: smallest vs. a larger cube than this vs. the largest cube. (Read more on 3🅿️🌠 Three Period Lesson here.)