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Montessori in a Minute: the Multiplication Checkerboard

The Multiplication Checkerboard is an impressive Lower Elementary math material that familiarizes students with combining number quantities. It reinforces mathematical concepts taught by other tools like the Bead Cabinet and Finger Charts used at both the Primary and Lower Elementary levels. Students use these materials to learn number order, problem solving order, and basic mathematical rules. The Multiplication Checkerboard, like all Montessori math materials, builds on the practice of using physical materials to teach abstract concepts.


The wooden or cloth board is over 2 feet long and is made of four rows and nine columns of 7 centimeter squares. These squares are arranged like other Montessori math materials: green for units, blue for tens, and red for hundreds. A second, smaller wooden box contains Montessori math beads and numerical placeholder squares.


The columns on the board represent simple numbers all the way up to the billions! For the rows, the students multiply each place value separately and add the sum of each multiplication. For example, if a child multiplies 22 x 32, it looks like this:


2 x 2 = 4

2 x 20 = 40

30 x 2 =60

30 x 20 = 600


Then, the student adds the sums of 4 + 40 + 60 + 600, getting the answer 704; the correct answer to 22 x 32. This process instills concrete number sense rather than memorization of processes or multiplication facts alone.


The Checkerboard is a roadmap to discovery, allowing children to visualize and create numbers well into the billions while understanding how multiplication can produce some extraordinarily large numbers. This material’s massive size makes using it a full-body experience. A student’s movement across the board and the act of placing the beads and placeholder squares reinforces the connections between numbers that students visualize on the Checkerboard.


Montessori schools like Hudson Montessori School utilize specially designed tools like the Multiplication Checkerboard to promote experiential and sensorial learning that students can repeatedly practice at each age level. Often, these tools are self-correcting, allowing the child to check their work and adjust accordingly.

This Montessori In A Minute series regularly explores the unique benefits of these fundamental materials.


To learn more about Hudson Montessori School’s interdisciplinary, theme-based learning approach to education, the Montessori philosophy and methodology, or how the school fosters the love of learning for children age 2 to sixth grade, sign up for an open house tour most Tuesdays at 9 a.m.


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