Bean Counting Sticks Freebies

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Math manipulatives, (that is, concrete objects that give students the ability to connect mathematical concepts and symbols to physical objects, and in turn this helps cement learning) is a fun and important part of math education. 

These bean counting sticks are a great manipulative for primary students.  All you need is a bag of black beans, popsicle sticks, and glue!  That's it!  And in return, your child will gain practice with fine motor skills, counting, comparing and ordering numbers! 

I think it's best to have your students make their own set of these bean counting sticks.  They will strengthen their pincer grasp, have a sense of pride in the math manipulative they created with their own two hands, and they will have a deeper understanding of the visual attached to each number. 

Each child will need:

1. 10 popsicle sticks (I love the colored ones!)

2. 55 beans (I chose black)

3. Glue

Instruct students to glue their beans to their sticks.  Glue 1 bean to the first stick, 2 beans to the second stick and so on until all 10 sticks are finished.  Set aside to dry.

Here are some fun ways for teachers to use these counting sticks:  (Click here for the free printable Bean Counting Stick Activities for Teachers PDF.)

1. Order bean counting sticks from least to greatest, then greatest to least.  

2. Pair each counting bean stick to a numbered flash card. (see example)

3. Pick out all odd-numbered sticks.  Pick out all even-numbered sticks.

4.  Call out two different numbers (from 1-10) and ask students to add the two together.  Choose another number and ask students to add it to the sum of the first two numbers. Show the answer by holding up counting stick.

5.  Call out a number and ask students to hold up corresponding counting stick.  Call out another number and have students hold it up in their other hand.  Subtract the smaller number from the larger number.  Ask students to hold up the stick that shows the difference of the two numbers.  

6.  Ask students to choose one random stick.  "Look at the counting stick your partner or neighbor is holding.  Stand up if your number is less than the number shown on your neighbor's counting stick.  Jump up and down if your number is equal to your the number shown on your neighbor's counting stick.  Pat your head and rub your tummy if your number is larger than the number shown on your neighbor's counting stick".

7.  Tell a story problem (see example).  Have students figure the math and then hold up their counting sticks to show the answer.

Help yourself to the printable PDFs of the story problems: Story Problem #1: Simon Simon; Story Problem #2: Suzy Dragon; Story Problem #3: Elmer; Story Problem #4 Mrs. Ilovebacon.  If you'd like them all on one PDF page to print out and use for math centers, here you go: Math Center Story Problems #1-4.

For more budget manipulatives, check this out!