The good news for our Montessori children is that math is presented to them in a totally different way from other methods – hands-on and fun. This article is an introduction to the Montessori Golden Beads, a Montessori math material that embodies the philosophy.
In this article, I explain the Golden Bead material and what you will need for the math lessons.
I also included some wonderful videos from Sustainable Montessori and a couple of others that will help guide you if you are presenting this material at home.
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If you are familiar with Montessori math at all, you know that the emphasis is on manipulatives over memorization, particularly in the primary years.
The Golden Bead Material is brilliantly designed to allow a child to gain a tactile and muscular sensation of the numbers 1 to 1,000.
These golden-colored math beads are presented in units and wired together in bars of 10, squares of 100, and cubes of 1,000.
Not only does the Golden Bead Material further the child's understanding of quantities, but it also introduces them to the decimal system.
The child's first introduction to the material consists of a simple presentation, inviting the child to handle each of the quantities.
The teacher might ask some questions, prompting the child to take mental note of the characteristics of each of the quantities.
The teacher also introduces the child to the vocabulary that goes along with the bead quantity.
At this point in their learning, the child may not yet be familiar with the words “unit”, “hundred”, and “thousand”.
But why have primary-age children work with numbers in the thousands? What is the purpose?
The answer to this question is part of Dr. Montessori's brilliant method of observing children to assess their interests and capabilities, instead of assuming their capabilities based on traditional standards.
Though initially the Golden Bead Material was intended for elementary-age students, Dr. Montessori observed children around the age of 4 using the material in the same way they had seen it used by the older children.
By the age of 6, these same children were performing addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division on numbers in the thousands! Incredible!
How to use Montessori Golden Beads
Montessori Golden Beads are used in many ways throughout the math curriculum.
Activities that involve the use of Montessori Golden Beads:
- The Change Game
- Seguin Board activities
- Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division (along with the Large and Small Number Cards)
- Building quantities (along with the Short Bead Stair)
- The Hundred Chain
- The Snake Game
In addition to these activities, children in Montessori are also able to check their work with Golden Beads when they begin working with more abstract math materials.
Materials for the Montessori Golden Bead lessons
To teach math with the Golden Bead material, here is what you will need:
- Montessori Golden Bead material with Number Cards (The set I linked has all the beads and Number Cards needed, however, it's important to keep a bank of Golden Beads on the shelf, as well.)
- 2 trays
- 2 small bowls
- equation slips (you can make these using index cards)
- large work mat for the floor (Many Montessori schools use color-coded mats to help differentiate place value. Some use mats like this, which are also helpful.)
Whether your child is enrolled in a Montessori primary program or if your family does Montessori at home, this material is sure to help your child experience joy in math!
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