You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. -Deuteronomy 6:7

Monday, July 15, 2013

Montessori Checkerboard Multiplication

One of the many materials made for learning multiplication in the Montessori classroom is the checkerboard. This one is a favorite in our house - even with my youngest who normally doesn't "like" math. Even she asks to do this work just for fun some days.

The colorful checkerboard materials build upon child's prior knowledge. When children begin with the familiar, there is no reason to panic when learning more challenging concepts.

The colors green, blue, and red representing the ones, tens, and hundreds place values are repeated from previous materials to give the child a sense of mastery.

The beads are the same colors and represent the same amounts as the bead cabinet found in Montessori preschools and early elementary classrooms.

The multiplicand is placed on the bottom and the multiplier is placed along the side.

The child sets out three bead-bars, four times.

The child sees that 3x4=12 and exchanges by putting a two bead-bar in the ones place and carrying a one bead to the tens place.

My youngest rolls a die to come up with her own problems to solve at this first level of multiplication. Eventually moving up to multipling large numbers - up to the millions!

Here is an example of her performing 214 X 3 =

She sets up the checkerboard with beads representing the numbers she's selected.

Now her board is ready for her to do some exchanging. We always start with the "units" place so her first exchange comes with those beads in the green square.

If she knows that 3 X 4 = 12, she can simply do the exchange.

If she has not yet memorized this answer, then she can count the beads to come to the answer of "12".  (That's the lovely thing about Montessori materials - the teacher doesn't have to correct the child, because the material is self-correcting!)

With the checkerboard, the number 12 would be shown with a 1 in the tens place (blue square) and a 2 in the units place (green square).

She documents her work as she goes.

My daughter is still using other materials to learn her multiplication facts, but I've found that there is no need to wait to perform these larger operations, while learning her facts at the same time.  It makes it more fun for her as she feels like she's performing "big kid" work - and she is!

The checkerboard can be used for bigger, more advanced operations too. These multiple digit divisors use what we call the "magic slide".

Stay tuned for an example of that once we get there!  Here is a good video to help you out in the meantime:


  1. Focus ?:

    I am looking for advice about buying Montessori materials, in particular 2nd grade checkerboard chips/beads and 4th grade long division tools.

    We are bigtime 2nd-hand thrifters and wonder if there are any websites for used tools? or worthwhile discount shops? I just began website searching, and see there seem to be many avenues/possibilities, but I'd rather trust/rely on a real parent's experience/advice! :) Thank you in advance!


    I am a new home schooler, just having pulled my children from our local awesome public school Montessori charter. Complaints summarized are: boredom, noise, and pace. My 2 kids have attended Montessori since pre-k and are now 2nd girl/4th boy. (We did Waldorf pre-school and love the aspects of play/non-tech, but couldn't afford the private tuition.)

    I am an artist/designer and my husband an architect. (I grew up in a small Christian school and did homeschool for a couple years as a young teenager.) I have been a stay-at-home mom and big time volunteer - but given my children's repeated requests to Home School, and having a new ankle/energy given a surgery last year - we made the leap! Its time to try something we yearn for. We all feel so happy and sure already, even on the bumpy home-ade and insecure days! the Library was always, but even more now our big time friend! Rebecca Doyle (age 39, St. Paul, Minnesota - 651-644-7161)

  2. Hello Rebecca,
    I’m so glad you wrote to me. I certainly do not have all things figured out, but I can say for certain that I will never regret spending too much time with my children. I suspect you will find the same thing! No teacher, no matter how good, could ever know your children as good as you, and could certainly never love them as much as you! Those are the only requirements for homeschooling.

    I will try my best to answer your question. Montessori is expensive and/or time consuming for the mom to figure out all the materials or do hand-made materials, etc.

    I lived in Plymouth, MN just two years ago! While there, we attended Hand in Hand Montessori school 3 days per week and did homeschool 2 days per week. It is the only place in the country that offers homeschool “academy” where you can have access to all of the Montessori materials (and trained teachers on all those materials) but still be homeschooling. I owe them a great deal of gratitude as they lovingly helped me get to full-time homeschooling.

    When we left MN to move to MO, I felt the same urge I’ll bet you’re feeling. The urge to have as many Montessori materials as possible! I did purchase quite a few things, pushing us over our budget. But I soon realized that I needed a new approach. That approach will be different for each family – but I guess I’d say it just includes finding your family’s needs first and then piecing together a few things in-between – rather than purchasing tons of Montessori materials. For example, my daughter struggled with the abstract when it comes to math so I knew it would be worth the money to purchase several math materials. Plus, since I had so many years working closely with Montessori teachers – I knew how to use those materials. Those I was unsure of, or couldn’t get the instructions for, I just left behind.

    1. Continued....

      What I have found so far on my homeschooling journey is that if I first just focus on Character training (such as diligence, gratefulness, self-control, etc., etc) that the other things fall into place. We all grow together and our hearts are turned to each other. Then, the materials used become less critical to success.

      Now, as for where to get the materials – I’ve spent many hours researching! I’ve purchased from Montessori Outlet and several others. ( I’ve not had many results finding used materials. This link above has had the best prices in most every case for me. Still not very thrifty, though!

      I have had a lot of success finding things online that can be made or cheaply ordered from other moms who have started a business out of selling their home-made materials. I have literally hundreds of computer files (word and PDF documents) that I can print, laminate and turn into Montessori classroom work.

      Here are some of the websites I have used (below). I simply do searches when I have time, then store the items in my computer files until I need them. Particularly those free items (and there are a lot of free items to download.) I grab all that are free and save them in case I need them.

      And last, I have found many instructions, step-by-step, at this website – free of charge!
      While I believe homeschool is the very best for our family – I would highly recommend Hand in Hand Montessori in Roseville, MN to anyone who is not able to homeschool (or can only do it part time). Speak to Michelle Thompson – definitely on my top 10 list of the most wonderful persons I’ve ever met! She once said to me (when I was struggling with feeling inadequate for homeschooling) to just “sit on the couch and hug them” and now I understand fully what she as saying! I’m so grateful for her and her school. Her homeschool academy goes through Jr. High. It’s a lovely place. If you’re in St. Paul, they are likely right near you!
      I pray this is of some help. Blessings on your homeschooling journey!