Making Bead Racks

Each one of my students makes their own bead rack with the help of a parent volunteer. The bead rack changes over time.


  1. Black foam board cut into 4″ by 6″ rectangles with slits cut into both sides (see photos)
  2. Pipe cleaners
  3. Two colored beads (I use red and white)

The first bead rack my first graders make has 5 red beads. The students count out 5 beads and string them onto the pipe cleaner. Then the parent fits the pipe cleaner into the slits and twists the pipe cleaner in the back and twists/tucks the ends. The student chooses a sticker and places it in the upper right hand corner. These bead racks are used for a short time to review combining and partitioning 5.

Bead rack for subitizing and exploring combinations of five:


Bead Rack 1



When students are ready for the next step, the parent volunteer comes back and untwists the pipe cleaner and the students add 5 white beads. Then the parent finishes it up as before.

Bead rack for exploring five and some more and combinations of 10:


Bead Rack 2



When the time is right, the last bead rack is made with two rows of 10 beads.

Bead rack for exploring many Math Path structures:


Bead Rack 3


When using the bead racks, students are taught that READY POSITION or STARTING POSITION is with the sticker in the upper right corner and the beads pushed to the right side over by the sticker.


What do PVC pipe + swim noodles = ?


(as seen on Pinterest)
It is approximately ten inches tall and two and a half feet wide.