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Added Apr 22, 2019

Montessori Monday: Operations with the Golden Beads

For example, the materials throughout the Sensorial area are presented in series of tens, in which each cylinder or cube or prism differs from its neighbor by a value of ten and in which there are ten of any of those pieces. The Pink Tower, for example, is a series of cubes from 1cm  in width to 10cms in width, with each cube 1/10th smaller than its larger neighbor. This orderly internalization of the relationships of tens is an implicit foundation for the Base Ten system, the relationships of numbers in our most commonly used number system. Children learn that  units can be counted up to 9, but that once you've counted the tenth of a series, you're working with a new kind of set. Think about it... whether you're counting units or tens or hundreds or thousands, you can only count 9 of those things before you have to bump up to the next kind. Nine units plus one equals one ten. Nine tens plus one ten equals one hundred, and so on. 

Here, the child is adding four digit numbers with the golden beads, with each quantity aligned for units, tens, hundreds and thousands. Later, children will learn that multiplication is just the addition of the same number to itself a certain multiple of times, that division is the reverse of that process and, ultimately, that subtraction removes a new quantity from within a larger one. We keep subtraction as the final operation, because it is the most difficult process for children to make abstract. 

We welcome you to visit or email your child's teacher to learn more about this fascinating work!


Catherine McTamaney, Ed.D.
Christopher Academy Alumna

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