The Brown Stair is a traditional Montessori material designed to teach the concepts of ‘wide’ and 'narrow’.  The child carries the rectangular prisms to his or her rug one at a time and then carefully grades them from widest to narrowest.  If the student has graded them correctly, the prisms will form the shape of a staircase.  Once the child has built the stairs, he or she takes a bowl of “roll-able” objects from the shelf and rolls each one down the staircase.  These objects provide what Maria Montessori called the “control of error” for the material: it clearly demonstrates to the child whether he or she has graded the prisms correctly, without the need for any adult correction or interruption.  If the prisms are correctly graded, the child gets to see the various balls and cylinders bump satisfyingly down their staircase.  If he or she has made a mistake, they will roll off track and the child will have to re-assess the work.  In this way, the child experiences the joy of discovering the concept independently, instead having the knowledge given by a teacher.

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