Bead Counters

So, our first post of an activity we tried:

Today Br made bead counters, which was a good activity for building fine-motor development, as well as a great activity to build on.

If you aren’t familiar with them, bead counters are a typical Montessori-type material.  There is a single “bead strip” for each number from 1 to 9, and then 10 additional “10 bead strips”.  With these, you can physically represent all numbers from 1 to 100 (well, I guess up to 109…)

Once we have these completed, I will work on some “jobs” with them to help Br develop a concrete grasp of those numerical values.

Materials needed:

-pipe cleaners (it took us 3 to make bead strips for numbers 1-10)

-beads (55 for numerals 1-10, another 90 to make the other 9 “10 bead strips”. I used “pony beads”, which I found in a mixed color pack at Target for $2.00 for 400 beads)

-something to cut the pipe cleaners (there is thin wire in the middle, which may trash nice scissors.  I used “Trauma Shears” left over from my old paramedic days…)

Starting a new bead counterTo start, I bent the pipe cleaner at one end to keep the beads from sliding off.  The wire in the middle of the pipe cleaner is a little sharp, especially after cutting.  (I initially tried to wrap it in on itself to bury that end, but the beads kept sliding off, so finally just bent it up)

threading the bead on the pipe cleaner
Br threading a bead on the pipe cleaner


I had Br thread the beads on the pipe cleaner (the fine motor skill).  Once he had placed the appropriate number of beads on, I had him pass it on to me to cut (about 1/2 inch past the last bead) & bend it.  I let him try cutting it a few times (with clear direction on where the cut need to be), but the “trauma shears” were a little large for him to do comfortably.

showing the almost done "9" counter
Mom helping show him a helpful distance from the camera lens, after his first "super close" picture was blurry

After the first two, I decided to have him use the same color beads in the same order for the rest of them.  My theory was it might help him more quickly recognize the different “numbers”.  We’ll see how that works out… It did end up being a good opportunity to help reinforce color identification: I told him which color bead he needed next to have it match up to the previous counters made (“you got the yellow bead on, now we need the green bead next to have it match up to your other ones…”)

He was showing signs of “fatigue” by the time we got to the “10” counter (using the pipe cleaner as a “bull dozer” in the bowl of beads, leaning pathetically on his hand), so we’ll do the other “10”s counters later.  I might try to do the other “10” counters differently, maybe alternating colors (emphasize odd/even?) or all a single color?

Finished bead counters for “1” to “10”:

1- 10 bead counters
Here's the counters for "1" to "10" (slightly mangled, as Bl was "helping" at the end, and counters had to be rescued)


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