Sunday, November 17, 2013

Weekly Resource - Montessori Math Beads

If you have thought about using montessori materials - especially the beads - I'd like to offer a few tips from experience.

First, you must check out the montessori materials site - they have mostly free items that you can print off and use at home.  Things like the stamp game, the place value cards, etc.  You can print them off onto cardstock (colored if necessary), laminate and use.  They are great for home or coop.

If you want a better idea of how to use the materials I always use this notebook as my starting point for primary students (up through basic one digit multiplication and division).  Basically in the left hand column is a list of all the primary materials in general order of presentation.  Then you can click on them and go to the specifics of how Montessori recommends you present the lesson.  Once you know the name of a specific lesson or material you can easily go to you tube and look for a presentation there as well.

Most people love Montessori because of the beads.  They really help kids grasp and play with numbers in a way that even cuisinaire rods can't really provide.  However, we are also not made out of money and can't buy ALL of the montessori math materials.  I have one crafty friend who tried to price out making the bead materials versus buying them and in the end she found that buying would probably be cheaper.  The question remains - what do I buy?

I would recommend purchasing either the checker board bead box (20 of each set of beads 1- 9) or the bead decanomial (which has 55 of each of the numbers 1 - 9).  If your set does not include ten bars you might need them to show exchanges.  You could also get the subtraction snake game box and a one extra color bead set and cover the bases for all of the activities listed below (snake game).  For at home use (unless you have a LOT of kids using them at once) I would say that the checker board bead box would do.

From here you can create:
  -   addition sentences or subtraction sentences with them.

  -  The addition and subtraction snake game.  You will need to get the white and black bars for addition and the gray bead bars for subtraction.
  - Use them for skip counting or multiples.  I haven't followed the montessori "way" of doing this.  With my kids I get a roll of calculator or receipt paper (thin and long) and have them roll it out next to their bead chain and then mark the multiples - 1x8 = 8, 2x8 = 16, etc.  They also use it to create short and long chains but use pre-printed pointers instead of having the student write it out. Here is the more standard way of introducing it in Montessori.

  -  showing the squares. Ask them to get 4 4's and arrange them in a square.  Count them up - that is the square of 4.   There are cubes available for purchase.  They are a little harder to make with the beads but you can show the idea with the smaller numbers.

  -  Teach multiplication of large numbers wit the checker board (which I would make out of felt if you want to use it - just remember color is important in montessori) can teach multiplication with the beads.  Here is a written step by step introduction and the online video.  Another more detailed explanation is here.

  - It can also be used with the decimal checker board.

Get creative and use them with the math curriculum you have on hand.  I do suggest you shop around because prices can vary WIDELY and quality isn't necessarily that different.  Some of these sets do include ten bars and some only include 1- 9.  You need to have some ten bars on hand if you plan to do any type of exchanging.  In the end, you can put together a whole set of montessori math materials for around $60.00 - if you want to use all the variety of beads they use.

In a montessori classroom all of these beads have to be available in individual sets so that a variety of students can work at one time.  However, in your home, you can easily set up the exercise that the student is working on and then change as needed.  In your home you don't have to worry about having every lesson available at the same time to meet the different needs of multiple students - you just need to pull out what your child is currently working with. Thus, one box of bead bars and a set of number tiles (these can easily be made) covers a lot of territory in your home.


  1. I've been reading lots of Montessori stuff lately. :-) I'm finding lots of fun ideas for working with my littles, especially my toddler. THESE are the hands-on activities for which I've been looking. I'm not a big fan of just crafts. With CM, we read and narrate, and with Montessori, we do. It feels right to me, though I doubt most purists of either persuasion would see it that way. Probably why I'm not a purist.

  2. I am not a purist or a crafty kind myself. I do like Montessori because all that she does is hands on and very intentional. Here is a list of free Montessori guides on the web: