The colored bead stair is a quintessential Montessori math material because it has SO many different mathematical benefits. The youngest child in primary all the way through upper elementary learns one-to-one correspondence, connecting quantity to symbol, square roots and cubes, basic operations, and complex algebraic equations.
I often use this material for middle and high schoolers who struggle in math, or who need didactic math materials to fully grasp a concept.
You do NOT need to be a Montessorian to use the colored beads – or any Montessori material for that matter. (Go ahead, Montessori fanatics… give me ten lashes if need be, but you know I speak the truth!)
It’s worth it to have these in your stash. You can purchase a set of five here.
If you are planning on using it for more complex equations, including rectangular arrays and order of operations (PEMDAS), I highly recommend investing in a box of them here.
Now that you’re ready with your colored bead stair, the next series of articles will show you how to use them.
This first one is just getting to know the pretty beads. Even with my older kids who have never experienced life with colored beads will get the first round of introductions, mostly with just the coloring page.
Consider it a getting-to-know-you lesson.
For the youngest kids who are still learning to count (but who are out of the oral phase of putting tiny objects into their mouths), this is a great lesson in one-to-one correspondence. So, here we go.
* A note on the pointer. There are several options to choose from, but it is your preference that counts. Some people choose to use a plastic handled flosser like this or a bread clip like this to count the beads. For this method, you have to use the floss or indentation on the bread clip to count AFTER the bead you’re counting, in between each bead on the wire. I personally like to use something pointed such as a short bamboo skewer or even the tip of a sharpened pencil to point to the bead. To me, this alleviates confusion as to which bead is actually being counted. Others may disagree. Again, it’s up to you and the child.
Lay your numeral cards out in a long line with the colored bead stair to the far right.
Grab your pointer, and beginning with the red bead nudge it away gently from the triangle and say one.
Place the red bead (one bar) next to the one numeral card, and repeat the word one while pointing to the red bead and then the numeral card.
Next, nudge the two bar (green beads) away from the triangle, and using your pointer point to the first green bead and say one. Then point to the next green bar and say two. Set it next to the two numeral card and repeat the word two while pointing to the green bead bar and then the numeral card.
Continue this same process with every bead bar…
Until you get to the ten bead bar. I like to say something like, oh and here’s the magic golden ten bar. This one equals ten. Let’s count to ten by counting the beads. (At this point the child may have already been counting with you for the previous bead bars. Great! If not, try it then next time you do this work. You can also let the child put the bead bars next to the correct numeral card by themselves if they ask to.)
Admire your work and notice how the formation of the beads make a stair.
If you’d like to move forward to coloring the 1-10 bead stair sheet from Montessori Printshop, then now or the next time the child does this work is the time to show the child how to do this…
Place the page on a clipboard (if you’re sitting on the floor), and collect your colored pencils that match the colored beads: 1-red, 2-green, 3-pink, 4-yellow, 5-sky blue, 6-purple, 7-white (or outline in black), 8-brown, 9-blue, 10-gold or dark yellow
Show the child how to line the colored bead stair together one by one into what resembles a staircase. Then color the bead stair page, using your beads as a guide.
This lesson can be repeated as many times as necessary until the child is comfortable with the beads and numbers.
Of course the child can always use the bead stair as a guide if needed.
Oh, and that magical ten bar!
Bravo! Yet another lesson to just have fun with.
Next up: Making Tens With The Colored Bead Bars