Counting beads

Translated from this post by Jane Kats.

Recently, at our math lessons with 5-6 year olds, we were … threading beads.
Actually, we were making very simple abacuses.
We were putting 5 light beads and 5 dark beads on a string.
Then we played a game where the kids would hide some of the beads in their hands and I had to guess how many they hid of each color.
I was guessing correctly, and the five year olds were very surprised.
They can all count to 12, and many can count further, but they still don’t fully understand how I can know how many beads they are hiding in their hand…

Putting on the beads


Who can hide as many as I did?


Later, we played with these beads with the 4-year olds.


And at the math festival we also played with these beads on a string.
You can see some beautiful pictures from it here.

Now we are playing “a game of 10”.
The goal is to find a pair of cards that have a total of 10 black squares on them.


Each card has 10 squares, 2 rows of 5. Some of them are colored and the total number of colored ones is written in a corner of the card.

Hiding all but 6 beads on the string and seeing how many need to be added to make a total of 10.



It sounds easy, but many 6 year olds search for a while, pointing with their finger and going through the possibilities.

It is not obvious to them that if here we have 2 white ones and there 2 black ones then together there are precisely 10.

Eventually they find pairs that “work”.


I think that this is precisely one of those cases where one needs to realize and understand before memorizing.

Pairs that are found are given to me and then I give the students additional cards…


We also play games where to answer one needs to use fingers – say,
add fingers so that together we have 10.

With younger kids we first play add until we have 5, and that
too is not always easy.

About aofradkin

I enjoy thinking about presenting mathematical concepts to young children in exciting and engaging ways.
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