A Golden Tool to teach the Decimal System



 Basic 1-3 Mathematics, throughout Strand 1: Numbers

 E.g.: B2. Use number names, counting sequences and how to count to find out “how many?”


 The Decimal System is, like the times tables, invaluable for doing any mathematical activity. Once children have the Decimal System at their fingertips, they can do 2-digit, 3-digit maths and beyond.  


Maria Montessori developed a learning system that contains many tools that help children understand the logic of maths concepts. One of her tools for teaching the Decimal System you can easily make:  the ‘Golden Beads’:


Luckily they don’t need to be made of gold; here is how you can make them from ordinary plastic beads for sale in any market:


Materials needed:

- beads – any multiple of 2,220, depending on the number of sets you want to make

- thin metal wire; stretched-out paperclips (‘office pins’) can work provided the holes in the beads are wide enough.

- a pair of small pliers



1. Take 10 beads and string them on a piece of wire. Bend the ends of the wire into a circle. Make sure that any sharp edges are well bend inside:

This stick represents ‘10’.

Make at least 10 of these sticks.


2. Make another 10 of the sticks of 10. Place them next to each other so that they form a square. Weave a wire across them to fix them together:


This represents 100 (10x10)

Make at least 10 of these ‘mats'.


3. Make another 10 of the 100-‘mats’. Place them on top of each other so that they form a cube. Weave a wire through them to keep them together:


Make sure you have at least 20 single beads left.


Tip: Children can help you to string the beads; it is a good exercise to develop fine motor-skills. But be careful when involving children below 3 years, as they may put the beads in their mouth.


For teaching:

The Montessori teaching method provides step-by-step guides on how to introduce learners to the Golden Beads. Here is a good resource:



There are many ways this tool can also be integrated in other teaching methods; here are a few suggestions:


1. Place value

For example number 56: the 6 is visualised by 6 single beads, and the 5 (50) by 5 sticks of ten:


 2. ‘Exchange’

A child counts any number of beads between 10 and 20, for example 13; he or she exchanges 10 single beads for a stick of 10. This demonstrates that 13=10+3. The same can be done with any number between 10 and 100, or between 100 and 1000:


Both concepts help to visualise addition and subtraction, and subsequently multiplication and division. 


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Check out other posts on this blog to see TLMs made by other teachers.


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