Knobless Cylinders

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Knobless Cylinders Green
Knobless Cylinders Red
Knobless Cylinders Yellow
Knobless Cylinders Blue





Four sets of cylinders, ten in each set:

  1. Set 1: Cylinders vary in height and diameter - yellow.
  2. Set 2: Cylinders vary in height and diameter - green.
  3. Set 3: Cylinders vary in diameter - red.
  4. Set 4: Cylinders vary in height  blue.


This is an individual exercise, which may be done either on the table with a table mat or on the floor on a floor mat. (Note: work cycle to be observed)


  1. The Directress first shows the child how to carry the box of cylinders to the table, holding with both hands.
  2. The Directress sits beside the child and places one box of cylinders in front of the child. Directress shows how to take the cylinders out from the box by holding them at the top with 3 fingers.
  3. Then the Directress shows the child how to grade the cylinders (Ex. 1). The Directress shows the child how to build them in a tower (Ex. 2). Finally, the child is allowed to combine 2 or 3 boxes of the cylinders to discover different properties. (Ex. 3)
  4. Directress may use the Three Period Lessons to introduce the terminology, "big, small" and "short, tall".
  5. Replace the cylinders back into the boxes, starting with the biggest to the smallest. Then return the box to the shelves.

Control Of Error

Visual and muscular sense.

Points Of Interest

These are true cylinders without any knobs. The practice the child has had with the cylinders in the blocks will help the child to use this material.

It is a common experience of Montessori Directress that, for most children, the Knobbed Cylinders are a good introductory activity followed by the Pink Tower, Broad stair, long Rods and then Knobless Cylinders.Try to find several objects of the same kind but of different sizes for the children to grade, for e.g. Brass candle holders, buckets, paper clips, ...etc. Chairs make an interesting example, where the child can sit on the biggest and maybe hold the smallest in between two fingers.


  • Develop the child's visual perception of dimension.
  • Develop the child's coordination of movement and fine motor control.
  • Prepare the child, indirectly, for mathematics by giving the child experiences in comparison, grading and seriation with varying combinations of forty cylinders.
  • Provide basic language -important in mathematics.


Exercise 1:
The child grades each box of knobless cylinders one at a time by arranging the cylinders in line by starting from the largest.

Exercise 2:
The child builds a tower with each box of knobless cylinders, one at a time starting from the largest at the bottom.

Exercise 3:
The child uses two set of knobless cylinders first, example set 1 and 2 and finally all 3 sets to discover different properties, such as similarities and differences in dimensions between cylinders.

Note: Set 4 is not used. It is used to compare against the rest of the sets. It cannot be used as it is of different diameter than the rest of the cylinders.

Stage 1: grading using 2 boxes or more.

  • Use Set 1 and 2 (Note: may allow the child to choose any combination of sets).
  • Grade the cylinders from Set 1.
  • Grade cylinders from Set 2, placing them on top of the graded cylinders from set 1.
  • When the child is competent, add in set 3.

Stage 2: Building a tower on a lid using 2 boxes or more.

  • Use Set 1 and 2.
  • Build a tower by alternating the cylinders from one set to the other.
  • When the child is competent, add in set 3.

Combine the Knobbed Cylinders and the Knobless Cylinders.
First, we grade the Knobless Cylinders and then invite the child to place each Knobbed Cylinder on top of the respective graded Knobless Cylinders. (This will show that they have the same diameter). or at the side of the respective graded Knobbed Cylinders. (This will show that the cylinders are of the same height)