The Montessori Bead Cabinet, or Bead Chain Cabinet, is a beautiful and eye-catching material that is found in every Montessori Academy preschool classroom.
The Mathematics material is comprised of a tall wooden cabinet, numerous coloured beads, and a collection of numbered arrows. By organising the coloured beads and arrows in meaningful ways, the children learn how to count in linear sequence, and then progress to mastering skip counting.
Montessori students begin working with the material around four years of age once they can confidently count from 1 to 100. Children must possess this knowledge, as the Bead Cabinet helps children identify the relationships and patterns between numbers, as they begin to experiment with squaring and cubing numbers from 1 through to 1000 for the first time.
The main purpose of the Bead Cabinet is to help develop children’s knowledge about numbers from the concrete to the abstract. By working with the material, children form a strong understanding of number sequencing, as they learn how to skip count by twos, threes, all the way through to tens.
Indirectly, children are preparing to learn multiplication tables, and the Bead Cabinet provides a firm foundation as it helps to visualise numbers they will eventually consider in written format.
The material is also built to engage the senses, as the beads and numbered arrows are purposely coloured to match, making it easier for children to understand the relationship between each part. The bead chains are also tactile, allowing children to use their hands to physically count the numbers, strengthening dexterity and fine motor skills.
Presentation – Short Chains
- Invite the child to come work with you and guide them to the Bead Cabinet.
- Identify the short chain of 3 and take this material to your work mat.
- Lay the bead chain out in a straight line and let the child know you will be counting by threes.
- Begin to count each bead aloud, pointing at each one, helping the child to see where you are up to. When you reach the third bead place the numbered arrow beneath the chain.
- Continue to count in the same manner, placing the numbered arrows beneath the sixth and ninth beads as you reach them.
- Once you have counted all nine beads, skip count by threes aloud, ensuring you point to each number as you say it: “3, 6, 9”.
- Encourage the child to have a turn counting and placing the arrows.
- Once complete, ask the child to help you pack away the material.
Image: The Bead Cabinet by Baan Dek Montessori