Wooden Hierarchical Material

Not only is this one of my personal favourite materials in lower elementary, it is also a ‘Key Lesson’  which is presented to the 6 year olds in the first week of school, representing quantities of 1 – 1,000,000. It gives the children the ‘Key’  to the entire decimal system – the foundation for the rest of their work in mathematics and geometry over 6 years .  After this lesson, the foundation is laid for work in all four operations (+ – x /) with the large bead frame (next post).


Why is it one of my favourite materials?

    • It is beautiful and precise. It appeals to the children; they want to work with it. It is shiny, and goes from teeny tiny and to very, very large, in precise proportions.
    • The million cube, which is exactly 1,000,000 times bigger than the unit cube, appeals to the children; the children explore the interrelationships between the quantities and numbers.
    • It is simple but at the same time it contains a wealth of information – a 3D mathematical experience with language.
    • And we all know that 6 year olds LOVE big numbers!P1080830


This material shows three families of numbers:

  • the simple family – the family of units (1 -green), tens (10 – blue) and hundreds (100 – red).
  • the family of thousands – units of thousand (1,000 – green), tens (10,000 – blue) of thousands and hundreds of thousands (100,000 – red).
  • the family of millions – units of millions (1,000,000 – green).P1080834

Looking at it another way:

  • the hierarchy of units (1; 1,000; 1,000,000 – all green)
  • the hierarchy of tens (10; 10,000 – both blue)
  • the hierarchy of hundreds (100, 100,000 – both red)P1080838P1080836


Here is a video of the material in action:

Wooden Hierarchical Material

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