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Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori was born in 1870, and she was the first woman ever granted a medical degree by an Italian university. As a child, she showed great ability in mathematics and originally intended to become an engineer. She did post-graduate work in psychiatry.

At the age of 28, Montessori became directress of a tax-supported school for defective children. Working thirteen hours a day with the children, she developed materials and methods which allowed them to perform reasonably well on school problems previously considered far beyond their capacity. Her great triumph, in reality and in the newspapers, came when she presented children from mental institutions at the public examinations for primary certificates, which was as far as the average Italian ever went in formal education and her children passed the exam.

Typically, she drew from her experience the vigorous conclusion that if these children could be brought to the academic levels reached by normal children, then there had to be something horribly wrong with the education of normal children. And so she moved on to the normal children of the slums. Thereafter, by her own desire and by public demand, she was an educator, not a medical doctor.

Montessori's insights and methods are contained in four basic texts, now republished: THE MONTESSORI METHOD, SPONTAEOUS ACTIVITY IN EDUCATION (The Advanced Montessori Method, volume 1), THE MONTESSORI ELEMENTARY MATERIAL(The Advanced Montessori Method, volume 2), and DR. MONTESSORI'S OWN HANDBOOK.