This is my favorite time of year in Kindergarten. The children have become very close friends with one another and are so engaged in the work. There is a literal hum and vibration in the classroom as they busily complete their classroom jobs, have some snack, and get down to work on their latest projects. The children have been creating their own books, in-depth maps, reading a lot of “magic e” words, and exploring “The Bank”.
“The Bank” is a term we use to refer to the “Golden Bead” materials in the Montessori classroom. The Golden Beads are used to teach the decimal system and place value. Through the use of didactic materials, the children can feel what a single unit is and understand that when you have 10 units you need to move over a decimal place to the 10s. They can see and feel what the 10s, 100s and 1000s are rather than just memorize this large concept.
Once the children are introduced to the Golden Beads, they are invited to the the “45 Layout” or the “Big Layout”. It is called the “45 Layout” because for each place value, there are 45 pieces used. For example, for the units the children will need 45 golden unit beads to be placed on the rug or work mat to match each numeral card 1 through 9. The children will then need 45 ten bars to layout for the numeral cards 10, 20, 30, and so on. This work is quite lard and takes a long time. As such, the children have a great sense of pride when they have completed this work!
After the children have completed the 45 Layout and are comfortable with the Golden Bead materials, we invite them to start adding quantities with “The Bank”. First the children will only work with “static” addition - numbers that do not require exchanging or “carrying” of numbers from one decimal place to another. The next step will be “dynamic” addition, where the children will need to exchange quantities with the bank - trading 10 units for 1 ten bar, 10 ten bars for one hundred square, etc.
“The Bank” is used for lessons in all of the functions of numbers. After addition, we move to multiplication, followed by subtraction and then division. Children will work with the Golden Beads and The Bank in Elementary Montessori classrooms as well.