Golden Beads

So Pumpkin 1 is finally ready for the Golden Beads now that she is confident with her numbers up to 10.


I started off with giving her the beads and telling her the names.  I find she doesn’t remember words quite a quickly as she did when she was 2 and 3.  I suppose she’s past the sensitive period for language.

Next I gave her the number cards 1000, 100, 10 and 1 and we matched them up.  I made my own Golden beads because 1) I wanted to save money and 2) I wanted to do them in two shades to show the 5+ in line with the RightStart Math approach.

It’s not hard to make your own materials.  You need round faceted beads (not perler, if they’re not spheres they won’t make squares), stiff wire, mesh frame (from the dollar store), wire cutters and needle nose pliers.

After I was finally done making 8 more 100 squares and 8 more 10 bars I introduced her to how numbers are formed.  The decimal system or place value is the next step in Math in Montessori and it’s a little different than what’s done in the main stream.  This is because children like to work with large quantities, the child’s absorbent mind and his sensitive periods for order, language and refinement of the senses.  The bead material is very sensorial, the child can see the difference between 100 and 1000.


This was really fun.  I love how hands on it is and how the child can actually see and feel the amount.  It allows Pumpkin to have an understanding of place value that she wouldn’t have grasped otherwise.

The next step is supposed to be done another time but I find you can often combine presentations in home schooling because it’s so 1 on 1 and since she was really engaged I thought it was good to take advantage of it.


So I lay out numbers and then she put out the amount of beads to match.  Then she wanted me to lay out the beads and she find the numbers.  She liked it that way better and we worked on it for quite a while.

Next she asked about 0.  First I lay out beads with no thousand cube and she wanted to know why we don’t put a 0 before the 100.  I was really surprised though when she asked about doing a 0 in the other numbers.


She caught on right away how to write the number with 0 in it and wanted to pick different place values to have 0.

We didn’t do the names of the 10’s numbers.  Instead I called them 2 ten, 3 ten.  The traditional names will come later.

When she was tired of the Golden beads she asked to use the Addition Strip board I had gotten in the mail the day before.  I had worked with her on it after we opened it but realized she just wasn’t ready and it was too abstract but she begged to do it today.

The reason I got the board is because I’ve been really interested in the Japanese Abacus called the Soroban.

Using an abacus requires knowing the sums that equal 10 really well.  This is also part of the RightStart Math curriculum and so the addition strip board is a good way to work on this.

First I said she had to show me she know how to add beads together on the abacus to make 10.  After she did some I went and got out the Addition Strip Board.


She was able to do it but I could tell she didn’t understand the concept so I had her match two strips on the board and then do those numbers on the abacus and that did help but then she discovered something neat….


The Math cubes fit perfectly on the board!  This was great because it really helped her see the concept.  She could see the amount of cubes and then count out how many more she needed to add.  I think we will use it this way for now.

She worked for a long time today.  It’s fun to see her learning and as someone who hated Math in school, I love the way Montessori is done, making Math easy to understand and fun.


Montessori Inspired Math

Pumpkin 1 is just starting to be ready for math at almost 4.  Majority of children aren’t ready for math until that age as their brain hasn’t developed that somewhat abstract thinking skills needed for math.  Math has always been a difficult subject for me but I love the Montessori method of math since it’s so hands on it makes it much easier to understand.

We’re doing a combination of Montessori and Right Start Math.  You can read about the Right Start Math approach here and here.  And a video review by another homeschooling mom here.

Since I still want to use many of the Montessori math materials I am creating my own bead bars, chains and cubes with the Right Start principle of 5+.  Here is what my beads look like.

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So you can see for 6 it’s 5 dark and 1 light.  9 is 5 dark and 4 light.  The 5+ concept helps children to visualize the number.  You can visualize amounts up to 5 but after that you have to group them in your mind to be able to visualize.

Today I was working on helping her understand that the beads and the abacus are the same.


She has always loved the hanging bead stair since she was little.  If you don’t have one I highly recommend it.  Today she was actually counting the beads past 5.  Usually she just rhymes the numbers off without 1 to 1 correspondence after 5 but today she insisted on counting every bead bar carefully.  When you start to worry as a mom that they’re not getting something, just give it time.  A few weeks older can make a ton of difference.

We’ve also been working on some geometry.  Today we did triangles and quadrilaterals.  Pumpkin 1 loves this geoboard from Discovery Toys and I do too.  It’s huge so it’s easy for her fingers to use, unlike the smaller ones.  I made triangles and quadrilaterals on it and she’d tell me which it was.  She also likes to just make pictures with the elastics.


Last week I was teaching her (and learning myself) the different types of triangles.  The geoboard was also perfect for this.


Pumpkin 2 likes to use the other side which is the Giant Pegboard.  Toddlers love to fit things in holes.  You can also do colour and shape matching and patterning and counting and so much more.  It’s just so versatile. You can purchase one for your family here:,621.aspx#sthash.PnGUdXcA.dpbs


We’ve also been doing shapes on the light table.  I use this set of shapes on it and we put them together to make other shapes.  They’re like mini constructive triangles.


I’m really enjoying homeschooling in math because of the awesome manipulatives available.

How to make a Montessori Math Bead Cube

I’ve started making my own Montessori math bead materials.  They are quite an expensive purchase and you can save money by making your own, though it’s a huge undertaking.  Pumpkin 1 won’t need most of the bead materials for a year or more but I thought I’d get started making them now.  One of the reasons I wanted to make my own is I want to adapt them to the RightStart concept of 5+.  So after the 5 bead bar, I’m doing 5 dark beads followed by however many light beads.


Faceted beads are the cheapest.  You need to use beads that are spheres, not pony beads or else you’ll get rectangles and prisms not, squares and cubes.  I purchased my beads from here.  I hunted around online for hours and this was the best prices which shipped to Canada.  Shipping was steep (I ordered all the beads I’d need to make everything, so it was a heavy box) at $50 but it was still overall cheaper than any other site.  I ordered the tools, round nose pliers and cutters from Fire Mountain Gems and the wire and jump rings from there.  However the wire wasn’t right.  The first time I didn’t realize the lower the gage number the thicker the wire.  But when I did order 16 gage wire, it was super soft and pliable.  My husband then got me wire from the hardware store, 18 gage and nice and stiff.  I ordered 8mm beads which are the perfect size.  You could go up to 10mm too, but I wouldn’t do 6mm.  I’ll make a separate post of how many beads you need to do the RightStart Math inspired method.

It’s not hard to catch on how to make the bead bars, however, I don’t recommend trying to cut wire the right size first.  It’s easier to thread the beads on the wire first, make the loop and cut the other end leaving enough for the second loop.  Then you’re not wasting wire judging the size wrong.  As for the squares and cubes, it did require a little more figuring out.  I knew to use the mesh canvas which I got at the dollar store from this blog but her math calculation for the size of the canvas confused me.  It’s basically, you need to leave a gap between each bead, so if you’re doing the 5 square you’d cut 9 holes out – bead, gap, bead, gap, bead, gap, bead, gap, bead (you only need gaps between beads, not on the ends).


This is the same for the cube only you do it length by width.  There are some other tricks I picked up.  I made a video of how to make a bead cube that I hope will help give a visual.  (The sound quality isn’t too great, it makes me sound like I lisp lol)

Here’s the finished cube



The pictures kinda make the beads look cheap, which they are, but they actually look kinda pretty.  Pumpkin 1 and my daycare child really prefer them to the ones I bought.