Math at Home Math Access for Teachers
and Home Child Care Providers

CME Group Community Foundation



How Many Beads?

Children will string the correct number, 1 – 5,  of beads onto pipe cleaners that correspond with the number at the top of the pipe cleaner.

Content Area Standard Target
  • Number and Operations
  • Algebra
  • Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers, and number systems
  • Understand patterns, relations, and functions
  • Count with understanding and recognize “how many” in sets of objects
  • Sort, classify, and order objects by size, number, and other properties
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Obtain materials Obtain the Materials
  • Plastic beads
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Masking tape or colored duct tape


Note: Small parts create a choking hazard for children. Make sure that all materials you choose to use for an activity or lesson with children meet safety requirements. Small parts are not appropriate for children who are 5 years of age or younger.

Introduce the activity Introduce the Activity
  1. Set up the activity by cutting pipe cleaners into 5 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 a 1 and the longest labeled with the number 5. The other 3 pipe cleaners should be labeled accordingly. This will also help to hold the beads onto the pipe cleaners.
  2. Review numerical representation.  For example, hold up a group of 3 items. Ask: “How many items do I have here?” “3” Say: “Let’s count the items to see if we are correct.  One – two – three. 3 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 pipe cleaner that has the number 2 at the top of the string, how many beads should I put on that string?”  Say: “2 – that’s right.”
Engage the children Engage the Children
  1. Give the children a tray that has the 5 labeled pipe cleaners and 15 beads.  With the 15 beads available, if the children string correctly, there won’t be any beads left over and they will be able to check to see if they have done the activity correctly.
  2. Model how to put the beads onto the pipe cleaners.  It isn’t exactly like stringing beads and it takes a little pulling to put the bead in place.
  3. Allow the children to begin the activity.  Beware of falling beads.  Make sure that the children are working with 15 beads and are able to manipulate the beads onto the pipe cleaner.

Additional Extensions

  • Have the children work with numbers 1-10. Provide 10 strings for the children to bead. 
  • Work with addition.  Have the children combine 2 strings and add them together.  “If you have a string of 3 beads and a string of 2 beads, how many beads do you have altogether?”


Encourage vocabulary Encourage 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 3?")

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

Make adaptations Make Adaptations

Supporting Children at Different Levels

Toddlers   Pre-K

Toddlers may:

  • Not yet have one-to-one correspondence

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Pre-K Children may:

  • Have mastered one-to-one correspondence with numbers 1 – 5.
  • Be able to count and have recognition with numbers beyond 10.

Home child care providers may:

  • Assist the children with number recognition and counting out the proper number of beads to string.


Home 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 2 strings and add them together.  “If you have a string of 3 beads and a string of 2 beads, how many beads do you have altogether?”
Books 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 Music and Movement
Outdoor connections Outdoor Connections
  • Create an outdoor collections game.  Set up a number of baskets or pails with numbers on them.  The children need to find objects that fill the basket.  The number of found objects must correspond with the number on the basket.


Explore links Web Resources




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