I’ve blogged recently about using dot cards and rekenreks to develop number sense, and today’s post focuses on another great tool–number bracelets.  Like dot cards and rekenreks, number bracelets provide concrete practice for number combinations and composing/decomposing numbers.

Making Number Bracelets

  • Use chenille stems (cut off about 2″) and pony beads to make the bracelets.  You don’t need to worry about sizing them to fit students–they don’t actually wear them, they manipulate the beads.  Notice these are also two of the materials used to make the rekenreks, so buy in bulk!
  • Use a single color for the beads on a bracelet.  Different bracelets can have different colors (for example all the 5’s have white beads and all the 6’s have red beads), but don’t mix colors on a bracelet.
  • Use mailing labels for the number tags.  Put the number tag over the twisted ends to keep little hands from getting poked.
  • Two common ways to store the bracelets are (1) in a large plastic bag with enough bracelets of each number for all students to have one, for example a bag of 5s, or (2) each student has a personal bag with bracelets for all numbers.

Number Bracelet Routines

  • Show students a systematic way to find all the combinations for a number by sliding one bead at a time from one side to the other.  Stress the part/whole relationship shown on the bracelet.  Be sure students verbalize each combination (0 and 3 make 3, 1 and 2 make 3, etc.).
  • Ask students to show you a combination for a number.  One student might show 1 and 2 while another shows 3 and 0.  Then ask students to show you another way.
  • Students can work in pairs to practice missing addends.  One partner hides some of the beads and the other partner has to determine how many are hidden.
  • Number bracelet routines should be differentiated in small group instruction and workstations by having students work on their own target numbers.  In other words, the majority of your kiddos might be working on combinations for 5 while others are working on 3 or 8.
  • Several methods can be used for students to show their work with number bracelets.  Some suggestions are shown below.
  • Put missing addend equations in a workstation with number bracelets for concrete support for a very difficult concept.
Go forth and make your number bracelets!  Grab my number bracelets unit to get the labels, prompts, and equation cards you see pictured.


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