In our decade-and-a-half (plus) of homeschooling, we have discovered that nothing clarifies and solidifies understanding of math concepts like the use of manipulatives for younger children.  There are many types available, and we have bought several of them over the years.  The high quality, natural material ones were costly, and sometimes difficult to replace if pieces were lost.  There are less expensive, plastic options, which we also tried (as replacements), but didn’t like. They are all essentially the same – units and bars of differing colours used to represent numerals and quantities.

Anytime that I can make my own tools and materials – especially when that is a more economical option – I am happy.

Below are instructions for making your own bead stair sets.  We made 11 complete sets.  (I’m planning to post a little something on making bead stair trays, as well as on how we store our materials).

You will need:

  • 10 mm painted wooden beads in the following colours and quantities –
    • red – 11
    • green – 22
    • pink – 33
    • yellow – 44
    • light blue – 55
    • orange – 66 (traditionally, this would be brown, but I prefer the orange!)
    • white – 77
    • violet – 88
    • dark blue – 99
  • Paddle wire (craft wire that comes on a paddle).  Try to get tarnish-free.
  • Wire Cutters
  • Round-nose pliers
  • Felt pad to work on (handy, but optional)
  • Good, sturdy pair of hands. :)

 

Gather up your supplies. With a bustly house, it helps to keep them on a tray, if you have one available.

 

Sorting the beads makes work much easier than fiddling with plastic bags.

 

Cut the wire a bit longer than you think you'll need it. A good pair of jewelers wire cutters are essential.

 

Make a loop around the fattest part of the pliers for this project. It prevents the bead from falling off, certainly, but also gives a little something more for small hands (and big arthritic ones) to grasp.

 

Thread the bead (or beads) onto the wire. You'll have to eyeball how much you'll need for the closing loop. Trim if you need to and curl that wire around the pliers at the fattest point.

 

Continue this way with all of the beads, making bars as follows below.

 

  • Red – units
  • Green – 2-bead bars
  • Pink – 3-bead bars
  • Yellow – 4-bead bars
  • Light Blue – 5-bead bars
  • Orange (or brown) – 6-bead bars
  • White – 7-bead bars
  • Violet – 8-bead bars
  • Dark Blue – 9-bead bars

 

Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, right?

I got my coloured beads on EBay from two different sellers – Yo-Yo Beads and Hobby Funhouse.  Both were excellent!

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