Inspired by the Chinese abacus (which they called suànpán) I adapted the Montessori Teens Board to create our own little counting set.  My objective is to teach the teens.

I had my students make their own set today.  They loved it!  I think it is so powerful to let them make their own materials whenever it is possible.  This gives them ownership!
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Each Counting Set has two 10’s strands (black), two 5’s strands (red), and 10 ones (gold), plus a counting mat, number cards and a drawstring bag for the beads.  I used the colors that brought the mood of China to this activity.

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Here’s what you will need: 1 piece of glitter foam (I purchased the largest size and cut it into fourths), pony beads in black, red and gold, gold pipecleaners, and a small drawstring bag.

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Preparation of Materials:  I set up the materials to make the construction as simple as possible.  I precut the pipecleaners (I cut the 10 strand 5 inches long and the 5 strand 3 inches long.  This gave room for the children to make the end loops.  If you make the set, it will not need to be this long.)  I laid out each child’s materials so that it would be clear when I gave them the instructions.

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Making the strands:   I told the children that the “black beads on tall, red on the small” in regards to the pipecleaners.  I repeated this several times.  I also demonstrated how to make a loop and twist on the end of the pipecleaner.  I walked the children through the first strand.  I set them loose to make the 2 black strands and 2 red strands, put them in their bags and count 10 gold beads into the bag.

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I talked a little about how we can call the 10 strand just “ten” and the 5 strand just “five” and the single gold bead “one.”  Tomorrow we will begin to put out the number cards and explore how tens, fives and ones make the numbers 1-20.  We will concentrate on 11-20.  Be clear! This is not the full Montessori method!  I am adapting the idea for my situation.  For a free print out of the number cards and more information on the Montessori method of counting with ten and teen boards check out this link: Teen and Ten Board.