The Montessori Golden Decimal Bead materials are so beautiful and yet very mysterious at first to the children. The children continuously gravitate towards them every day and want to know more about how these materials work. The children are introduced to the basic lessons and become more and more familiar with this incredible work. Through lots of repetition, they can easily identify the names of each category and configure how to create four-digit numbers with the numeral cards.
Once these skills are fully established, the children begin to work with these materials at a more in-depth level by working with the four operations of math—addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
Golden Bead Lessons
At first, the children are introduced to a variety of lessons for simple addition without carrying over quantities. They begin to gradually grasp the basic process of how the operation of addition works through practice. This activity is often carried out with two children working together to construct and solve a mathematical equation by using sets of numeral cards and beads that they each collect and then combine to create a larger amount.
The actual physical size of both the small numeral cards for each addend and the equivalent quantity of beads that the children bring together, as well as the larger cards for representing the answer, help to illustrate what actually happens when adding two or more quantities together.
It leaves a strong impression in their minds for the operations of addition.
These impressions are what make the Golden Bead lessons so important and help a child to apply these skills with other materials when adding.
Once the children have grasped the concept of simple addition, they are introduced to adding large quantities of numerals and beads using a more abstract level of thinking by carrying over quantities when any of the placement values become higher than the number 9.
For example, when a child counts the unit beads and reaches 10 units they must exchange them for one ten-bar instead of using the unit beads. Any remaining units will become the answer for the unit’s placement value. This same process happens for each category of tens, hundreds and thousands as the children continue to add the two addends together. They represent their answer using the larger cards from their work mat.
As the children develop their skills with these kinds of math lessons they are introduced to the operations of subtraction, multiplication and division from the simple skills to the more abstract levels. Once the children have mastered the Golden Beads, they progress to more abstract materials that represent value, but are not equal in size or weight like the Golden Beads.
For example, the children work with all the materials for the Stamp Game that has small 2cm wooden stamps that represent each value with a written number on top of them, such as 1000, 100, 10 and 1.
Like the cards used with the Golden Beads, the stamps also follow the same color scheme—green for the units, blue for tens, red for hundreds, and again green for thousands.
This same color scheme is used with the Montessori materials that the children use later to find square roots and study algebraic concepts in the elementary grades.
The students perform the same four operations with the Stamp Game as with the Golden Beads, however, because the stamps are the same size, this requires more abstract comprehension of the materials. They can use the Stamp Game in a smaller workspace, create both the addends for addition, and then add them exchanging when the number of each placement value is greater than nine. For example 2,468 + 3,795 = 6,263.
The children just shine with enthusiasm while working with both of these materials in the classroom and you can see the children striving to challenge themselves at levels beyond your wildest dreams.