If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you may have noticed that I enjoy utilizing some Montessori tools in our homeschool.  Although I am not a fan of the Montessori principles themselves, I have found that many of their tools offer a tremendous resource to aid in other methods of homeschooling.  I have recently discovered another example–Counting Beads.

Counting Beads are a Montessori tool to help students learn to count and visualize numbers.  They consist of color-coded beads on a copper wire.  A regular set will have wires with 1 bead, 2 beads, 3 beads, and so on until you reach 10 beads (see photo above).  The basic idea is that you can take different wires and do basic arithmetic with them(2 beads +4 beads= 6 beads total), or use them for more advanced mathmetics such as multiplication (5 wires of 10 beads each = 50 beads).  The imagination is really the limit with this tool.  Unfortunately, the full sets of these beads are very expensive (some are over $100). 

When JR recently reached something of a stand-still in learning his math, I decided we needed to give him a visual  aid to help him out.  I thought the beads would work perfectly, however, there was no way I was going to spend that much.  So, I went to my local craft store, and for about $20, I bought copper wire, and several sets of beads of different colors.  Then, JR, M, and I had a lot of fun stringing beads one afternoon.  I would assign each child a color and a number (like 5 pink) and they would put that many pink beads on the wire.  My job was to size the wires and create loops on the ends to keep the beads on.  This whole process was sooooo much easier than I had expected!  It really did not take long, the kids had a great time, and we got a nice little kit out of it.  We still need to make a few more, as we are missing the “1” and “9” bead wires (I didn’t buy enough colors), and we will eventually make more of the other colors as well.  Our supply works great for now though.

The beads have helped JR move beyond his stagnant point and he is once again learning and conceptualizing new concepts.  He has a really mean mom who won’t tell him answers to math problems, so he loves being able to grab the beads when he is stumped on a problem, and counting them to figure it out.  I expect we may be using this set for many years to come!