Years ago I bought this treasure at a yard sale for $1:

There are well over 100 beaded necklaces in that bin! I use them exclusively for math, though I definitely have had some children in the past 10 years who would have loved to wear them, or just run their hands through them over and over. (It does feel nice!)

I bought them to use for a specific counting game. I didn’t know about this game until I came to Canada. Seemed every Core French teacher I ever worked with loved this game, though now that I am in an Immersion/English dual track school it isn’t as popular. In French, this game is called “Dix” or Ten. The class sits in a circle and counts to 10, each saying one number. Whoever says ten gets to sit down, and the game is played until there is just one person left. I bought these necklaces when I was teaching kindergarten. I didn’t want anyone to get out because the “out” people aren’t getting any practice. I feel like I may have read about this in the Effective Guide to Instruction in Mathematics, but I can’t be sure.

Over the years, this game has evolved. I now use it for skip counting by all sorts of numbers: count by 10s and whoever says 100 gets a necklace, count by 5s and whoever says 50 gets a necklace, and so on. I am getting ready to start some multiplication with my class after the March Break, so last week I pulled out the necklaces and we started using them every day for a few minutes before the mini-lesson.

On Friday, I asked everyone to count by 10s, and whoever said 30 got a necklace. After we’d made it around the circle once, I asked them to talk about the pattern they could see. Several realized there was a pattern. It was identified as a “no, no, yes” pattern an “ABBABB” pattern, and a “skip, skip, yes” pattern. Finally someone said, “It goes, 1, 2, 3! 1, 2, 3!” (emphasis on the 3!) I asked what would happen if we counted by ones. Sure enough, every time someone said 3 s/he was wearing a necklace. Then we counted past 3 to see if the pattern would continue. I scribed on the board for them so everyone could see the numbers while we counted, and then I circled the numbers that corresponded with a person wearing a necklace.

Sure enough! The pattern continued.

We talked about how we could use what we had learned to count by threes, just like when we count by 5s or 10s or 2s. Everyone was amazed, and several were happy to share their strategy: say the numbers you are skipping quietly to yourself then say the third number loud and proud.

I’ve been reading the book “Number Routines” by Jessica Shumway, and this activity shows up in that book too. She recommends that the class start with one of her many number routines, then Number Talk, and then the mini lesson. I’ve been giving that a try this week and I like the way the counting routine lead into the lesson, which is going to lead into our next unit of study.

Well, not exactly “next”. We’re going to spend a bit of time on time and temperature. But then it’s off to multiplication we go!