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Added Jan 29, 2018

Montessori Monday: The Teen Beads

After the child has learned quantities from one through ten in the Bead Stair, he or she will be introduced to the Teen Beads, an important  number building material in the math curriculum. Rather than learning quantities from 11-20 by rote memorization, the Teen Beads allow the child to internalize the composition of those numbers by exploring the quantities concretely. 

A reinforcing lesson that builds on the child's mastery of 1-10, the Teen Beads allow for more practice identifying the curiously named numerals between 10 and 20. Unlike the numbers between most other multiples of 10, these quantities have unique names that follow a different pattern than higher numbers. Instead of naming the number of tens first, followed by the number of units (as in twenty-six or fifty-eight,) these have names the child needs to learn individually.: eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen and so on. 

The material consists of a small lidded box containing nine ten bars and a separate bead stair, a pyramid constructed of the bead chains for 1 through 9. The child lays out a ten bar, then one of the chains from the bead stair. Initially, she may count up from 1 to the teen ( from 1 to 11, or 1 to 12, etc.) Eventually, the child will discover that she can "start" at ten for each number and simply count the additional numbered teens. 

The Bead Stair gives the child practice naming the numbers, while simultaneously reinforcing the place value between units and tens, practicing her attention and refining her fine motor control as she names and touches each bead. The beautiful glass beads are enticing to the child, who knows to carry them carefully and to handle them gently. Finally, more practice with the Bead Stair helps to prepare the child for more advanced lessons with the short bead chains for squaring numbers and the long bead chains for cubing numbers... another example of the direct and indirect goals elegantly integrated into even the most seemingly simple of lessons. 

Catherine McTamaney, Ed.D.

Christopher Academy Alumna


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