Dr. Montessori knew that a recurring sensorial experience with quantity would help support a child’s understanding of numbers and mathematics. She developed several different materials to allow the child the chance to explore numerical values with a control of error present to aid the child in accuracy and the geometrical aspects of the four operations. The Montessori bead bars are one such material. The bead bars are made of colored beads on a wire in quantities of one to ten. Each bead bar quantity is a different color which helps support easy recognition of the amount represented by the beads. This material is used in both Primary and Lower Elementary. The bead bars are also seen in the short and long bead chains which show the linear representation of the squares and cubes of numbers.

One use of the bead bars in the Lower Elementary class is with a material called the Montessori checkerboard. The checkerboard is one of several different presentations used to help children understand the process of long multiplication. The checkerboard is a series of green, blue, and red squares arranged in a checkerboard pattern to show hierarchical place value. Beginning in Primary, the children see the quantities of units, tens and hundreds color coded as green, blue, and

red respectively. This helps children understand that there are three members of each family in our decimal system. This pattern is reflected in the squares of the checkerboard. Each square represents a place value obtained by multiplying the category of the multiplier and multiplicand. For example, hundreds times tens equal thousands. Children use the bead bars to assign specific qualities to the multiplication, placing the product on the corresponding place value square. For example, 4 hundreds times 7 tens equals 28 thousands or 2 ten thousands and 8 units of thousands. There are many benefits to working with the checkerboard including:
  • The checkerboard allows students to see the process of long multiplication while still strengthening their multiplication facts.
  • It helps them experience the geometrical nature of multiplication in the decimal system and prepares them for squaring.
  • It allows them to work in small groups on huge problems, both tendencies of the Elementary child.
  • It provides children the opportunity to explore and discover, which helps create a growth mindset and helps them become life-long learners.
  • It’s fun!

Bead Bars and Checkerboard

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Mountain Shadows Montessori School offers AMI programs for students 12 months to 12 years old.

...So, what is AMI?

Association Montessori Internationale

AMI is the organization that is tasked with the responsibility of maintaining the integrity of Maria Montessori's legacy. Mountain Shadows and AMI share a mission to support children's natural development and to help them become the transformative force of society.

This comes with a commitment to a standard of excellence, defined by...


Rigorous and extensive training

including the study of child development and a deep understanding of the Montessori materials to assist the teacher in creating the environment necessary for this work.


Three-year age ranges

within each classroom that allow children to work at their own pace and level of development.


Extended work time,

including a three hour uninterrupted work cycle.


Upholding international standards

through expert consultation every three years and regular and ongoing study of pedagogy and practice.

For your child, this means...


Whether it's digging in the dirt or discovering the universe.


Whether it's speaking your mind or learning to speak up.


Whether it's composing a song or coming up with a big idea.


Whether it's for ourselves or for others.


Whether it's work or play.

Critical Thinking

Whether it's studying science or solving a problem.


Whether it's doing your part or doing what's right.


Whether it's planning your day or preparing your own lunch.


Whether it's deciding together or sharing the work.


Whether it's supporting your friends or saving the planet.

This is what Mountain Shadows means for your child.