The Checkerboard

A detailed guide to understanding The Checkerboard material and how it is used within the Lower Elementary curriculum

How does it work?

Elementary children love to tackle math problems with large numbers — and the Checkerboard makes this possible! The Checkerboard gives your child hands-on practice with multiplication using numbers into the millions. It is a core Lower Elementary math material utilized across more than a dozen lessons with a variety of fundamental math concepts. It feeds your child’s imagination and motivates them for memorizing arithmetic facts. 

The Checkerboard makes learning multiplication fun by giving a strong visual of how the process works across number categories into the millions. It is ideal for working with bead bars because its soft surface prevents them from shifting around. It can be folded or rolled for compact storage on a shelf.

Prerequisite Skills - The Checkerboard is typically used from ages 7-10, and is best introduced when students show fluency in:

  • Multiplication with the Stamp Game
  • Understanding place value and the hierarchy of numbers with the Golden Beads and Wooden Hierarchical Material
  • Making and writing numbers with the Large Bead Frame

Orientation to The Checkerboard

Sample lesson.

Start by watching this sample lesson from our Guidepost Homeschool platform that will familiarize you to The Checkerboard and its use.

If you are already subscribed to Guidepost Homeschool, scroll down to see all the corresponding lessons where The Checkerboard is used in our curriculum. To unlock more than 2000+ lessons subscribe to Guidepost Homeschool today.

How to set up.

Setup - The Checkerboard is not a one-man band. The following materials are required for working with the Checkerboard:

  • Decanomial Bead Bars - you can use the 1-9 colored bead bars, but will not need the 10-bars because the Checkerboard itself functions as a designator of place value for 10’s, 100’s, etc.
  • Grey and white number tiles or cut out square pieces of paper for writing multipliers on (approximately 1” in size)

The Checkerboard is suitable for use at a child-height table or on a work rug on the floor. To use the Checkerboard, orient it on the work surface so that the green square with 1’s is in the bottom right corner. Place the box of bead bars and number tiles to the left of the Checkerboard. Once the child gets to the stage of recording their math problems, place writing tools to the right of the Checkerboard.

Usage Tips - When using The Checkerboard for the first time, the fabric might require steaming or light ironing prior to use to ensure that it lies flat. A small whiteboard and marker can also be useful for composing numbers for your child to make on the Checkerboard.

Additional materials - After initial introductory presentations and practice, your child will need these basic supplies for recording their math problems:

  • Graph paper (½" squares)
  • Clipboard or other hard surface for writing on
  • Pencil
  • Green, blue, and red colored pencils
  • Ruler

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 Checkerboard 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 Checkerboard is used

    Checkerboard (Ages 7-12)

    • Orientation to the Checkerboard
    • Making Numbers
    • Multiplication with a One-Digit Multiplier
    • Carrying Over
    • Multi-Digit Multiplier
    • Introduction to Geometric Form
    • Multi-Digit Multiplier with Facts
    • Multi-Digit Multiplier with Facts and Partial Products
    • Geometric Form 2
    • Cross Multiplication
    • Categorical Cross Multiplication
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