When I was a math student, I learned that when you squared a number, you multiplied the number twice. And I learned that when you cubed a number, you multiplied a number three times. Not until I became a teacher and began working with hands-on materials did I learn that a number squared actually makes a square! And a number cubed actually makes a cube!
In math, we have been using bead chains to build both squares and cubes. This gives us a concrete, multisensory understanding of squares and cubes. It also gives us great practice in repeated multiplication and skip counting.