Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Novel, Cheap Way to Imitate Montessori Math Beads

Using Perler Beads as Bead Bar Substitutes

The Bead Stair.  These Perler Beads can be fused together to look like the bead bars traditionally used.
Lots of Montessori lessons for children 4 and up rely on beads.  But buying the bead sets can be expensive and making them is just a HUGE headache.  So when I recently spent a week over Spring Break with my kids and a bunch of craft kits, I thought I'd experiment with a cheaper way to do the same thing, just for the introductory lessons.  Enter Perler Beads.

A few months ago I didn't even know what Perler Beads were.  They were near the pony beads at Michael's and I have bad memories of making necklaces and lanyards with those things only to have them fall apart.  But Perler Beads are meant to be part of a design you make on a grid and then melt a little bit under a medium iron--just enough to make them glom together permanently.

Not only are these things pretty cool, but when I discovered that they also make Biggie Beads I was ecstatic because that meant the 3-year-old could make stuff side-by-side with the bigger kids.  I know--WHO KNEW?!?

Normal math beads on the left, normal Perler Beads in the center, and Perler Biggie Beads on the right.  
We made monsters......



....and then Mommy got bored and made Montessori Math Beads!

I tried to match the standard colors as close as I could with the amalgam of several Perler kits that we had on hand.  As you can see, the littler beads matched colors the best, but were slightly smaller than standard beads (too small for my middle-aged eyes).  I didn't have any light blue Biggie Beads, but just used royal blue for both bluish bars.  Those beads are bigger than the standard beads and much easier to count.

Note that the 5-bead bar and the 9-bead bar were the same color.  Also, the 10-bead bar, which is normally golden, is orange here.
Here's a post by a fellow blogger that includes a short description of the Math Bead Stair.  And here's a video of how you'd present the work.

This is just one example of using things around the house to teach your children!  To learn more about saving money when Montessori-ing see How to Montessori Without Going Broke and "Montessori Lite" When You Don't Have Montessori Stuff.


  1. Oh my goodness! So clever! I love to read about DIY montessori materials. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This made me laugh, but I love it! Are they pretty durable?

  3. Yes, but I've had a little practice ironing them together. I think at first I was not very consistent (when we were just making things from kits). After a while I got the hang of how hard to press with the iron, how to check to make sure everything had bonded well, etc. As long as they have bonded well to each other they are durable. (After I read your question I tried to break what I had made, and only one of the bead bars--one of the small ones--broke under heavy pressure.)

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  5. This is such a great idea! Would it be okay if I used one of your pictures and put a link to this blog post on my website: I'm always on the lookout for cool ways people have made their own Montessori materials.

  6. Wow. I would never have thought to do this. What a great idea! I hadn't heard of biggie beads before. Thank you, Sarah!