Children 3‒6 years are in a sensitive period for order and math is a very ordered process. At this age, they have a natural interest in numbers and numerals. Once the children have a solid understanding of 0‒9 they may explore the areas of linear counting, the decimal system and the operations of addition, multiplication, subtraction and division.
In the Decimal System, the children first explore the golden bead materials sensorially. They learn from concrete to abstract, combining the golden beads with the abstract color coded numerals, building their association of quantity and symbol.
In the photos below, lower school students Marilee and Nicki work on the Decimal Layout. In this work, Marilee and Nicki are developing their understanding of place value and comprehension of larger numbers. The movement as the child walks back and forth to “the bank” to acquire the golden bead materials helps them to also feel the weight as the quantities increase. The beauty of seeing the layout develop and the size of the quantities increase to the final layout, gives the children a visual representation of every numeral from 1‒9000.
Once a child has mastered this lesson, the next step would be Number Composition in which a student will build a number (i.e.: 1236) using the thousand cubes, hundreds, tens bars and units. Continued work with the golden bead material helps the child’s understanding of the operations of addition, multiplication, subtraction and division. Working with the manipulatives in the higher numbers helps to provide a solid foundation from which to grow, providing a vision for a lifetime of learning.