When we began COVID homeschool in March, Meatball was having a bit of a subtraction block. The kind of block that exclaims “I can’t do it!” – which of course proves the statement true. We talked a lot about needing more practice, growth mind set, not being able to do subtraction YET – but what was really needed was just more time.

Meatball has never been a big fan of the golden bead materials. I think she always understood the abstraction out to a material like the stamp game, so we started there. However she’d been doing stamp game subtraction at school, and wasn’t feeling particularly enamored with the stamp game just then either. Two weeks into homeschool, I DIY’ed the bead frame materials and she’s now had plenty of practice with multi-digit subtraction on the bead frames.

Wanting to take things slow, I felt like we were missing a step. My manuals and other resources didn’t list another material, but I knew there was one more step I wanted Meatball to work through before moving on to subtraction with just pencil and paper. The bead frames abstract out borrowing from the next place value over, but they don’t really teach how that will be notated on paper. Montessori Compass to the rescue! Their website lists every single step of their curriculum, and, right after the bead frames comes the Golden Mat! This material solidifies the piece we needed – by going back to the colored bead materials, showing how the borrowed quantity is placed and then exchanged. I see how easy going from a physical material to a solely written equation will be. This YouTube video explains the material well.

Golden Mat Subtraction from Sustainable Montessori

So – onto the DIY. I had a burlap table runner lying around in my supplies and I’ve been busy embroidering!

This morning I introduced the material to Meatball (I haven’t quite finished my sewing yet!) and it is exactly what she needs. After a few practice sessions I’ll introduce writing down what she’s doing as she’s doing it, rather than just recording the equation and the answer, and we will have completed the subtraction sequence!