Beaded Number Rods

Yesterday, I went to the dollar store and spent $2 on a pack of beads and some stems.  (I'm giving away my age, but we used to call these pipe cleaners when I was in school. This set is shorter than the ones I remember from long ago.) 

This morning, I had time to just play with these. Here are some of the ideas I came up with:

Simply creating number sticks was fun.  What a great way for kids to learn to compare numbers. After building a staircase with number rods, I'd also have them build a staircase with unifix and talk about how the two sets are similar. 

Once kids have had time to explore the materials, it's time to add in symbols.  I made this set of number toppers and taped them onto the beaded rods.   

I'm thinking of having kids sequence these. They would also work well for a number of games.  Here are some that came to my mind right away:

1) Remove the beads.  Have kids put the beads back onto the number rods. (When you want the beads to stay on easily, just fold the bottom of the stem over.) 

2) Partners work together to put the number rods in order.  One partner closes his/her eyes while the other removes a number rod.  The partner has to see how quickly he/she can figure out which rod is missing. (A slight variation - Instead of taking a rod away, the first child switches the order of two rods. The second child has to quickly put them back in order.)

3) Take one rod at a time. Flip it, so there is just a blank white card as the child sees the back of the number topper. He/she says, as quickly as possible, how many beads are on the rod. Flip the card back over for a self-checking activity. 

I love any material that helps kids really visualize and understand addition and subtraction.  So - I got out some flashcards and started playing with these beaded number rods.  

For addition, I answered the problem mentally and then took the number stick that matched my answer.  I really liked "proving it" using the number stick - and I'm thinking kids will too. 

These worked really well for subtraction.  I just took the stick showing the total and subtracted by sliding the beads down the rod.  I found this quick, easy and visually appealing.

I find that many kids really struggle with the concept of numbers in the teens.  So - I started playing with these to see how they'd work with numbers through 20. 

First, I just added another stem and created rods for numbers in the teens.  It didn't seem like that would help kids visual these numbers.  

Then, I tried folding between the group of ten and the additional ones.  I started to feel like this would be a way kids could visual numbers in the teens.

Just for fun, I made some larger toppers.  This struck me as a visual that would really help kids understand numbers in the teens! 

Some ideas for working with these would be:

1) Have kids sequence numbers 10 - 19. 
2) Teach kids to verbalize, "I see 18.  18 is one ten and eight more ones. 

Rekenreks are all the rage!  I messed around a bit with making a rekenrek that kids could build for themselves.  Here's what I came up with:
Just attaching two number rods to q-tips was a quick and simple way to create a rekenrek.  I really like that the beads stay in place when I pick them up. (With many of the commercial rekenreks, the beads slide as soon as the rekenrek is tilted.) The q-tips worked well because the stems did not easily slide over the ends and they are something I usually have on hand. But, I didn't really like the look. So, I went digging through my kids' old toys. 

I found a bin of building toys - and there were plenty of stems that gave these a nice sturdy feel. 

If you'd like to print out the number toppers I used, you can download them by clicking here

The flashcards pictured here are available at my Teachers pay Teachers shop.  Click here for addition cards and here for subtraction cards. 

It's been fun playing with beads and stems today. I hope that someone else will find some inspiration in these ideas. If so, I'd love to hear about it!

Thanks for stopping by,  :) Anne


  1. The toppers are no longer available. It says the poster has put them in the trash.

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