4 Math Games to Play Using Beads

Written by The Mom



This week we played some fun math games using our Perler beads. I’m going to be real, most of my ideas for games and crafts are at least inspired by things I see on Pinterest so I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with these on my own.

We used just over 1,000 beads (I didn’t count them all, just estimated), four jars, and four numbers that we wrote on paper. Anything of similar size or quantity would work in place of the beads. Bowls or paper plates or whatever is handy is fine for the containers (I just happened to have jars that weren’t being used for anything else at the moment).

I wrote the numbers 1, 10, 100, and 1,000 on four different pieces of paper. Then I counted out or estimated about that number of beads into four different jars.

Note: with more jars and more pieces of paper, these supplies could be used for other  games such as counting by 2s, counting by 10s, counting by 100s, and so on.



Game #1: Matching

For this game I wanted to see if Miss C could pick the jar with the correct number of beads and place is on the right piece of paper.

I laid out the numbered paper in order for lowest (1) to highest (1,000). I read each number to Miss C to make sure she knew what they were.

Next, I placed the jars in a row on the table randomly, making sure they weren’t in the same order as the numbers. I asked Miss C if she could match the jars onto the correctly numbered pieces of paper.


Placing the jars on the correctly numbered paper

Game #2: Small and Big Numbers

For this game, Miss C and I talked about which numbers were “small” and which were “big”. She correctly identified 1 as the smallest number and 1,000 as the biggest of the four numbers we had. Having the the jars with beads was a helpful visual for her to understand why 1 is a “small” number and 1,000 is a “big” number.

Next I pulled random jars and asked which had the least amount of beads and which had the greatest amount (for example, we compared 1 and 100, then 100 and 1,000, then 10 and 1,000 until she was able to consistently identify the smaller and larger number every time).


Pointing to the smallest number

Game #3: Estimation

We went right from talking about small and big numbers into talking about the word “estimate”. We talked about how estimating is like guessing, and that we can use information we have to make a guess or an estimate. For example, we knew that about 1,000 beads completely filled up the size of jar that we had, so we could estimate that when the jar was full there were about 1,000 beads in there (even though we didn’t count them).

We also talked about how some things we don’t need to estimate because we already know the exact number, so we don’t have to guess. For example, we could easily see that in one jar there was just 1 bead. We didn’t need to guess or estimate that it was 1 because it was obvious that it was just 1 bead. We talked about how with small numbers we can count or see with our eyes right away how many there are, but with really big numbers it can be more helpful to estimate.


“Which numbers could we estimate instead of taking a long time to count?”

After we were clear on the meaning of estimate, we moved on to the game.

First we dumped a random number of beads into the jar (I made sure it was an amount we would be able to count to fairly quickly). Then we both guessed how many we thought were in the jar.

The first time, Miss C guessed there were 10 beads and I guessed there were 12, then we counted the beads. There were 11, so that game was a tie.

The next round Miss C guessed 20 beads and I guessed 25. There ended up being 53 beads so we both were pretty far off on that round!

Miss C is very interested in competitive games right now and loved this one. We counted the beads together out loud each time to check to see who had the closest guess so this was also a great game for counting practice.


Trying to guess how many beads are in the jar

Game #4: Understanding Numbers

For the last game, Miss C just played around on her own a bit and explored the different numbers. She dumped each jar into a bowl one at a time: first the jar with just 1 bead, then the jar with 10, then the jar with 100, then the jar with 1,000. She played with the contents of each jar and we talked about how small or big each number was and how many beads were in each jar. This is a great sensory activity that kids can use to “feel” how big (or small) these numbers are. Miss C was impressed when we dumped the 1,000 beads into the bowl and she was really able to dig her hands into them.


This is what 1,000 beads feels like!

Up to this point, Mr. F hadn’t shown much interest in the games, but as soon as we walked away he hopped up and started imitating some of the things we had been doing. He was able to correctly place the jars on the corresponding numbered papers.


Playing with the jars and numbers

This is one of the reasons why we don’t force our kids to learn or participate if they aren’t interested… Often times they act like they aren’t interested if pressed, but if left alone they will usually sit down and teach themselves something. I don’t know if this is an age thing or a personality thing but we roll with it for now… It is most important to us at this age that the kids are having fun while they explore and learn!


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