How Many Beads?

In this lesson, children will string the correct number of beads onto pipe cleaners. The number of beads will correspond with the number on the label at the top of each pipe cleaner.

Lesson for:

(See Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.)

Content Area:

Numbers and Operations

Learning Goals:

This lesson will help toddlers and preschoolers meet the following educational standards:

  • Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers and number systems
  • Understand patterns, relations and functions

Learning Targets:

After this lesson, toddlers and preschoolers should be more proficient at:

  • Counting with understanding and recognizing “how many” in sets of objects
  • Sorting, classifying and ordering objects by size, number and other properties

How Many Beads?

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • Plastic beads
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Masking tape or colored duct tape

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.

Step 2: Introduce activity.

  1. Set up the activity by cutting pipe cleaners into five different lengths. Wrap a small piece of tape around the end of each pipe cleaner and write the appropriate number on the piece of tape. The shortest pipe cleaner should be labeled with the number 1 and the longest pipe cleaner should be labeled with the number 5. The other three pipe cleaners should be labeled accordingly. The labels will also help keep the beads on the pipe cleaners.
  2. Review numerical representation. For example, hold up a group of three items. Ask: “How many items do I have here? Three.” Then say: “Let’s count the items to see if we are correct. One-two-three. Three items. Yes, we are correct! Today, we will see a number at the top of each pipe cleaner and it is our job to put that number of beads onto the pipe cleaner.” Ask: “If I have a pipe cleaner that has the number 2 at the top of the string, how many beads should I put on that string?” Say: “Two—that’s right.”

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. Give the children a tray that has the five labeled pipe cleaners and 15 beads. With the 15 beads available, if the children string them correctly, there won’t be any beads left over and the children will be able to check to see if they have done the activity correctly.
  2. Model how to put the beads on the pipe cleaners. It isn’t exactly like stringing beads and it takes a little pulling to put the beads in place.
  3. Allow the children to begin the activity. Beware of falling beads. Make sure the children are working with 15 beads and are able to manipulate the beads onto the pipe cleaner.

Additional Extensions

  • Instruct the children to work with numbers 1-10. Provide 10 strings for the children to bead.
  • Work with addition. Tell the children to combine two strings and then add them together. Ask: “If you have a string of three beads and a string of two beads, how many beads do you have altogether?”

Step 4: Vocabulary.

  • Count: To identify the amount of something by number (e.g.,”How many blocks do you have? 1-2-3!” Point to each object while saying “1-2-3.”)
  • Numeral: The symbol used to represent a number or “how many” (e.g.,”The numeral 2 represents the number of beads on the string.”)
  • Add: Increase in amount or number (e.g.,”How many beads should we add to the string to make three?”)

Early Math Glossary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Not yet have one-to-one correspondence
Child care providers may:
  • Assist the children with number recognition and counting out the proper number of beads to string
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Have mastered one-to-one correspondence with numbers 1- 5
  • Be able to count and have recognition with numbers beyond 10
Child care providers may:
  • Increase the number of strings and beads so that the children are working with numbers 1-10.
  • Work with addition. Have the children combine two strings and add them together. Ask: “If you have a string of three beads and a string of two beads, how many beads do you have altogether?”

Suggested Books

  • 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo by Eric Carle (New York: Penguin Group, 1998)
  • How Many Snails? By Paul Giganti (New York: Greenwillow Books, 1994)

Music and Movement

Outdoor Connections

Create an outdoor collections game. Set up a number of baskets or pails with numbers on them. Tell the children to find objects to fill the baskets. The number of found objects in each basket must correspond with the number on each basket.

Web Resources

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