Golden Bead Set

A detailed guide to understanding the Golden Bead Set material and how it is used within the Early Years, Lower Elementary and Upper Elementary curriculum

How does it work?

The Golden Bead Set is an essential material for guiding children to understand our base10 number system in all its facets. This work can start with children as young as age 4.5 years old, and elementary children ages 6-8 years old both reinforce and extend that learning. The Golden Beads are used for a hands-on introduction to the four arithmetic operations and, later, for word problems, divisibility, squaring, and square root work. This material is a cornerstone of the Montessori math program.

Guidepost’s Golden Bead Set is ample enough to facilitate a wide range of math activities spanning Early Years to Upper Elementary ages.

Prerequisite Skills - Early Years and Lower Elementary students are generally ready to start working with the Golden Bead set if they have a fundamental understanding of numbers, specifically:

  • Ability to count, write and read numbers to 20

In Upper Elementary, work with the Golden Beads presupposes:

  • Work with multiples of numbers
  • A firm grasp of the concepts of multiplication and division
  • Concepts of squaring and cubing
Divisibility by 2 Lesson

Sample lesson.

Start by watching this sample lesson from our Guidepost Homeschool platform that will familiarize you to the Golden Bead Set and its use.

If you are already subscribed to Guidepost Homeschool, scroll down to see all the corresponding lessons where the Golden Bead Set is used in our curriculum. To unlock more than 2,000+ lessons subscribe to Guidepost Homeschool today.

How to set up.

Identify parts of your set - Guidepost’s Golden Bead Set is the same for Early Years and Lower Elementary and varies slightly for Upper Elementary. Both age group Golden Bead Sets include the below materials in slightly different quantities.

The Early Years and Lower Elementary set contains:

  • 1 Large wooden tray for storage
  • 45 Golden unit beads
  • 45 Golden bead ten bars
  • 45 Wooden hundred squares
  • 9 Wooden thousand cubes
  • Large wooden decimal system cards and holder
  • Small wooden decimal system cards and holder

The Upper Elementary set contains:

  • 1 Large wooden tray for storage and 2 golden cups
  • 90 Golden unit beads
  • 45 Golden bead ten bars
  • 45 Wooden hundred squares
  • 9 Wooden thousand cubes

Setup - Carefully remove all packaging material. Note that some Montessori parts are very small – be mindful not to inadvertently discard anything.

Use the large tray to contain the wooden and beaded pieces, in roughly the following order:

  • Thousand cubes at left
  • Hundred squares next, to the right
  • Tens to the right of hundreds
  • Units at the front
  • Note that these are oriented largest to smaller, like the categories for place value

Adjust the orientation of the card sets in their holders so that the cards are in order from 1-9 in each color category and facing forward. The front of each box is the side with the 1000's and 1's.

Identify a place at your child’s math shelf for the Golden Bead Set to be stored. Select a location that is easy for your child to reach (probably low to the ground) because it is a large material and one that they will need to access often.

Additional Materials - In general, you can count on the following supplies being used with the Golden Bead Set, so it’s a good idea to have them on hand in a child-accessible manner:

  • A felt mat or towel (about 18” x 24”) or 2 cloth placemats (each 13” x 19”)
  • This keeps the beads from rolling across a table top work surface 
  • It also serves to delineate the child’s workspace
  • Cut square pieces of paper (approximately 1” in size)
  • Regular pencil

For Guidepost Homeschool subscribers

If you are already subscribed to Guidepost Homeschool, start in the order below to navigate to the corresponding lesson plans using the Golden Bead Set in our Altitude learning platform.

Wondering about supplies used in particular lessons? Detailed materials lists can be found at the beginning of each lesson in Guidepost’s Altitude system, as well as on the materials cards at the beginning of each unit.

  • Corresponding Altitude lessons

    Lessons (Altitude Cards) Where the Golden Bead Set Is Used

    Arithmetic Fundamentals

    Introduction to the Decimal System: Overview (Ages 5-7)

    • Introduction to the Decimal System
    • Introduction to the Decimal Cards
    • Laying out the Decimal Cards
    • Golden Beads and Cards
    • Composing Numbers with the Golden Beads
    • Exchanging with the Golden Beads

    Introduction to Operations: Golden Beads Overview (Ages 5-8)

    • Golden Beads Static Addition
    • Golden Beads Dynamic Addition
    • Golden Beads Static Subtraction
    • Golden Beads Dynamic Subtraction
    • Golden Beads Static Multiplication
    • Golden Beads Dynamic Multiplication
    • Golden Beads Static Division
    • Golden Beads Dynamic Division

    Other Explorations with the Golden Beads (Ages 5-9)

    • Comparisons
    • Estimation
    • Rounding
    • Rounding Beyond Tens
    • Rounding with Operations

    Divisibility (Ages 7-12)

    Level 1

    • Divisibility by 2
    • Divisibility by 5
    • Divisibility by 4
    • Divisibility by 8
    • Divisibility by 25

    Level 2

    • Divisibility by 9
    • Divisibility by 3
    • Divisibility by 11
    • Divisibility by 6

    Squaring (Ages 9-12)

    • Analysis of a Square: Binomial
    • Analysis of a Square: Trinomial
    • Analysis of the Square: Advanced Notation – Binomial
    • Squaring a Sum - Tens and Units

    Velocity & Interest (Ages 11-12)

    • Finding the Distance, Velocity, and Time with Golden Beads
    • Finding the Interest, Rate, Principal, and Time with Golden Beads
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