How To Teach Subtraction Using Montessori Golden Beads

Montessori, which is a method for teaching and learning, focuses on the use of specialized, self-correcting materials to facilitate instruction. Children are thought to learn best not through the use of abstract methodologies and concepts (such as through giving lectures, teaching formulas, encouraging memorization), but through the use of concrete materials so that they could see for themselves how a principle (such as a Mathematical operation) works. One of the most important materials used for teaching the Montessori way is a tool called Montessori Golden Beads. This material is used to teach Mathematical operations such as addition, multiplication and division, as well as to teach the concept of place value. If you want to teach subtraction by using the Montessori Golden Beads, read on for some guidelines:

  • Know what the Montessori Golden Beads are. The Montessori Golden Beads are little circular beads that consist of the following: single individual beads; ten beads put together in a straight bar; ten of these bars placed together in one flat square (containing a total of one hundred beads); and ten of these squares placed together in a cube (containing a total of one thousand beads). Your student should be adequately familiar with how to work with the beads before you move on to teaching her about subtraction. Also, do know that the Montessori way recommends that you teach your student addition and multiplication through the use of these beads first before you move on to subtraction.
  • Introduce the concept of subtraction. Before you use the Golden Beads to help the child perform subtraction operations, the student should be knowledgeable as to what this operation is all about. Let the child know that subtraction refers to the “taking away” of something. The number to begin with is called the minuend; the number that will be taken away is the subtrahend; and the number that you are left with is the difference. The student should also understand that if you put the difference and the subtrahend together, she will be able to find the minuend.
  • Lay out the appropriate number of Montessori Golden Beads. Let’s say that you want to give your student the equation: 1,654 – 1,523. First, write down the minuend in a number card, and write down the subtrahend in a separate number card. This will serve as the reminder for your student as to what numbers she is working with. Now, let your student lay out the minuend using the Golden Beads. She should lay out one cube (one thousand), six flat squares (six hundred), five bars (fifty) and four individual beads (four).
  • Let your student “take away” the subtrahend. Now, instruct your student to remove the subtrahend: 1,523. Supervise as she takes away the cube, five of the squares, two of the bars, and three of the individual beads.
  • Let your student count how many beads are left. Again, supervise how your student counts the beads. She should immediately “read” the difference as one hundred thirty-one (one flat square; three bars; one individual bead).

There you have it! These are the steps for teaching your student subtraction using Montessori Golden Beads. Whereas with the traditional Math method which relies more on board work and “bringing down” numbers in order to come up with the difference, the learner will actually see subtraction happen in a very real and concrete manner. This promotes not just mechanical knowledge, but comprehension as well. Good luck, and hope this helped!


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