A Peek at Our Week | Elementary | Week of November 6

Many of you might be seeing “Checkerboard” written on your child’s work plan and wondering to yourselves, “What is a checkerboard and how is it teaching my child math?” This week, I wanted to share with you one of the most popular materials in any Montessori Elementary Classroom – The Multiplication Checkerboard. This material is used in different stages to multiply whole numbers throughout Lower Elementary and then with decimals in Upper Elementary. Montessori Math can be confusing to many of us because it is not taught the way we have experienced learning mathematic and geometric concepts. In most of our schooling, we were taught the quickest and shortest way to come up with the correct answer, often leading us to be confused about where a number came from and feeling like we’d never use that information again. Imagine if we had all been given the time and opportunity to discover formulas and concepts on our own, instead of solely copying down what we were told!

Dr. Montessori wanted her materials to help children develop a “Mathematical Mind.” This meant the goal of math in Montessori schools is not to come up with the correct answer the quickest, but to learn how to think critically and logically. The focus on math in the classroom is on the process of what they are learning, instead of the product. Brain research from “Math Works” by Michael Duffy, shows that Montessori Math materials engage all four lobes of the cerebrum simultaneously, connect the right and left hemispheres of the brain, and actively engage the prefrontal cortex.

The first lesson with the Multiplication Checkerboard is reading numerals. Each square on the Checkerboard represents a value that students learn in their initial lesson. Students place bead bars in each box to read numbers into the hundred millions. The Checkerboard is set up to use up to a nine-digit multiplicand so practicing reading large numbers is important to set students up for future success.
After students are comfortable with reading large numbers, they are introduced to multiplication with the Checkerboard. Students begin with a unit multiplier. In each box that corresponds to a numeral in the multiplicand, students place the amount of bead bars the multiplier requires. For example, if the student has the equation 345,126,712 x 4, they will place four bars of 2 in the units’ place, four bars of 1 in the tens’ place, four bars of 7 in the hundreds’ place, etc. After laying out their bead bars, students will begin simplifying by adding up the bars in each square and exchanging them until there is only one bead bar in each square – their final product.
After a teacher observes a student confidently and independently completing a multiplication equation with a unit multiplier, they are introduced to two, three, and four-digit multipliers. This stage of the Checkerboard takes the longest. During this stage, students are also introduced to recording partial products of their equation. This means they will complete the unit multiplier row, simplify, and record what they have. They will continue that process with the tens’ multiplier, the hundreds’ multiplier, and then the thousands’ multiplier. This part of the Checkerboard is leading them to abstractly multiply on paper. When the student is done multiplying on the Checkerboard, they add their partial products on their paper, then add the beads on the board to check their work.
The final stage of the Checkerboard is abstractly multiplying. This is when a student is able to multiply solely on paper, without materials. While it would be faster to just show the child this method first, practice with the concrete materials gives them a deeper understanding of what they are doing and what those numerals represent. Often the students at this stage will check the work of students still using the materials, as you see in the photo.

The Multiplication Checkerboard is one of the many materials in our classroom that gives your child the opportunity to learn and grow at their own pace, while being challenged. The concrete materials used in Montessori classrooms give students a deeper understanding and a sense of confidence when they come up with their own formulas or solutions to problems.

A Peek into Next Week

Next week Lower Elementary students will talk about factoring, the fundamental needs of early humans, and bisecting angles. Upper Elementary students will look at the characteristics of cells, commas and apostrophes, and the five kingdoms. All students will work on Text-to-World Connections in Reader’s Workshop and will participate in new States of Matter lessons.

REMINDERS: 11/16 OCC Packing. Information was sent home on a flyer and in email!

11/17 Parent-Teacher Conferences – This is a NO SCHOOL day for students. If you haven’t yet, you can sign up here.

11/21 Harvest Party – Parents are invited to come join us for tea and desserts. Come hear what students have learned about the Mayflower. Please arrive at 1:00 pm. More information to follow by email.

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