Monday, August 27, 2012

The Montessori Bead Cabinet - A Tool For All Ages

NAMC montessori bead cabinet and materials math and counting
One of the most rewarding things about being a NAMC tutor is interacting with my students. I recently engaged in a conversation with a student who was preparing to place her first order for Montessori Materials for her upper elementary Montessori classroom. She told me that she was not going to purchase the Montessori Bead Cabinet materials for her upper students since they had used the Bead Cabinet Materials in lower elementary.

The Montessori Bead Cabinet Material is a quintessential and defining Montessori material.
The Bead Cabinet is first introduced in the Children’s House as a means to sensorially demonstrate the linear concept of the Golden Bead Material as well as reinforce linear counting from 1-1,000. For the 3-6 child, the Bead Cabinet represents a BIG work! Imagine a 5-year old taking the thousands chain and laying it out vertically on the floor and using the numeral counting arrows to count all the way to 1,000! Now, imagine the sense of pride that same 5-year old feels at his accomplishment.

In addition to linear counting, the Bead Cabinet provides a concrete representation of abstract mathematical concepts. While children at this age are not able to verbalize these concepts, they can represent them. Through the use of short and long bead chains, number squares and cubes, and numeral arrows, the Bead Cabinet concretely demonstrates:
  • skip counting -- 10, 20, 30, 40, . . . 1000
  • multiples
  • squared numbers: six 6s = 36 = 62
  • cubed numbers: ten 100-squares = a thousand cube

ten bars NAMC montessori materials math bead cabinet skip counting

This concrete learning paves the way for future learning in the lower elementary Montessori classroom. It is here that the child recognizes and has that wonderful “Ah ha!” moment where he says, “I worked with this in the Children’s House, but now I understand it.” Using the Bead Cabinet Material, the child builds upon previous knowledge and begins to explore multiples and rules of divisibility, as well as the powers of numbers.

The Montessori Bead Cabinet - A Tool For All Ages

The Bead Cabinet is still an essential material in the Montessori upper elementary classroom. Since our primary responsibility as Montessori teachers is to “follow the child”, we know that children do not progress linearly nor do they reach developmental or academic milestones at the same time. I have had many 4th year students who continue to explore skip counting, multiples and rules of divisibility with the Bead Cabinet Material. My 6th year students have also used the Bead Cabinet squares and cubes as they work through the Montessori lessons on squaring, cubing, square root, and cube root. And even my most advanced students have been known to lay out that old, familiar 1,000’s chain in the hallway when they need a respite from their own BIG, upper elementary work.

After walking my NAMC student through the progression of the Bead Cabinet, she understood how the Montessori materials, just like adults, were designed to “follow the child” throughout their Montessori career. She realized that although the Bead Cabinet is an expensive material, it is one that is at the very foundation of learning across the Montessori levels.

NAMC montessori materials math bead cabinet elementary math 2 manual NAMC montessori materials math bead cabinet preschool mathematics manualNAMC montessori materials math bead cabinet elementary math 1 manual
The NAMC curriculum manuals provide step-by-step instructions for presenting activities using the Montessori material.
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Monday, August 27, 2012.


  1. This article clarifies the benefits of the Montessori Bead Cabinet beautifully!


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