Sussex Montessori students develop problem-solving device

April 13, 2024

First- and second-graders in Mason Falligant’s class at the Sussex Montessori Charter School in Seaford have taken math problem-solving to the next level.

When a multiplication tool the students were using did not allow for calculations with decimals or fractions, Falligant, himself the product of a Montessori education, challenged the 6- to 8-year olds to find a solution.

Beginning with the existing multiplication device, Falligant worked with the students to find ways to redesign it to incorporate decimals and fractions into the operations.

The result was the Decimal Fraction Bead Frame. A modern take on the Babylonian abacus, the bead frame is useful as an aid for students in multiplying a number by a multi-digit decimal number.

Falligant and his class created a prototype of the frame and submitted it to Alison’s Montessori, a leading supplier of educational materials headquartered in New Jersey. Alison’s Montessori secured the rights to the design, and the Decimal Fraction Bead Frame is now available for purchase at In its official online catalog, Alison’s Montessori credits this product to the students at Sussex Montessori School in Seaford, Delaware. “We honor the learners that were a part of the design process,” the listing reads.

“That’s what makes Montessori unique,” said Lisa Coldiron, head of school. “The learners are all thinkers and leaders.”

The Montessori educational model was developed in Italy in 1906 by Dr. Maria Montessori. She observed that children essentially can teach themselves as they absorb knowledge from their surroundings. She believed that the goal of education should be to create a classroom environment that fosters a child’s natural desire to learn.

Coldiron sums it up by saying that Montessori instruction is doing what is right for children. The curriculum is individualized and keeps students actively engaged. “It’s learning by doing,” said Coldiron.

Sussex Montessori Charter School opened its doors in 2020. It currently serves 430 K-6 students in its 17 classrooms and is a free public elementary school open to all Delaware children at no cost to their families. Transportation to the school is provided.

Coldiron said the school’s board of directors is committed to making a public Montessori education available to all children.

Two early supporters of Montessori schools in the United States were Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell. No doubt they would be very proud of the inventive young minds in Falligant’s math class.

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