Just the other day, Courtney and I were planning for a number sense presentation we are giving this summer, and I was reflecting back on student teaching MANY moons ago and a simple assessment my cooperating teacher taught me—* The Bean Test*. I gave this test a lot, and it gave me some wonderful information about the students. Some of you have probably seen, heard about, or even use this simple assessment with your kids. All you need are beans!

**The Bean Test**

Decide on a number of beans you would like to use. The beans will represent the sum, and you will determine this number based on the student you are assessing. For example, you may be assessing a kindergartener’s understanding of 5. Once you have determined the sum (number of beans), you are set to begin the assessment.

- Place all of the beans in one open hand. Show them to the student and say,
*“I have some beans in my hand. Will you please tell me how many beans I have?”*Just by asking this questions, you will gain some important information. You will be able to observe if the student has to count the beans one by one by touching them, tracks his/her eyes from one bean to the other and counts to him/herself or aloud, or is able to subitize and states the number of beans quickly without counting them one by one. - Continue by showing the beans in your open hand and saying,
*“Can you tell me again how many beans are in my hand? Now, the number of beans that I have is not going to change, but I will be hiding some of the beans in my other hand. I am going to ask you how many beans are hiding in my hand. Remember, I will always have (5) beans, but they will not always be showing.”*Make sure the student understands what you will be doing before moving on. - Move a number of beans to your “hiding” hand and keep it closed. For example, you may have hidden 2 beans. Show your open hand side by side with your closed hand. Continue,
*“Once again, remind me how many beans there are altogether (5). Can you please tell me how many beans are hiding?”*Make sure to ask the student to share any of his/her thinking aloud. You will again be able to observe some valuable things about your student. Does he/she count on to the beans that are showing using his/her fingers until reaching 5, count backwards from 5, use his her understanding of 2 + 2 (*I know two plus two is four and you have three showing. One more would be four, and one more than that is 5, so 2 are hiding.*), immediately state the number of hiding beans, etc.? - Continue by hiding different numbers of beans until you have assessed all combinations adding to 5 (including hiding all of the beans and showing all of the beans). I also always made sure to show all of the beans and asked the student to repeat the number of total beans before hiding a different number of beans.

I used a simple recording sheet that my cooperating teacher had made. Students were listed alphabetically with a place to write the date, the sum, and any anecdotal notes. Click here to **download a sheet**, or you can easily make your own.

I also used the test with an extension in small groups following **CSA** where we used the beans, drew the beans, and wrote equations to accompany our models. I also remember when a student asked me if he could “play” The Bean Test with a friend during independent work time. From then on, this was an activity that students could choose to do with a partner during independent work time. This worked well because the teacher paired each student with a “like” partner who was working on the same sum.

All of this reminiscing about ** The Bean Test** made me think of different ways a dirt-cheap tool like beans can be used for math. The following are some fun math games/activities using beans for PreK-1 (or beyond, depending on your students’ needs and any extensions you use). It’s All About the Beans, ‘Bout the Beans!

**Prepping for the Activities/Games**

Some of the activities/games use two-sided beans. Creating two sided beans is EASY! You just need some LARGE lima beans and some spray paint! I used glossy paint because I thought it would hold up best with little hands. Spread the beans out on newspaper, spray, let dry, and bag–that’s it!

Small cups are also used for some of the activities/games. Dixy cups work great! Any printouts needed will be linked with each activity/game.

**Toss Em’ In, Take Em’ Out**

This is a great game for understanding the relationship between one and two, more or less.

**You Will Need:** a bowl or shoebox lid (something with sides) and a pile of beans (the number depends on how high you want the kids to count)

**Number of Players:** 2 to 4

**Directions:**

- Students sit side-by-side, or in a circle, with the bowl/lid in the center and the pile of beans within everyone’s reach.
- The first player tosses 1 or 2 beans (or a number you have chosen) into the bowl and says the number aloud. Example, the player tosses 2 beans in the bowl and says,
*“Two”.* - The next players tosses 1 or 2 beans in and counts on. Example, the player tosses 2 beans in and says,
*“Two more is 4.”* - Play continues in this way until students have counted up to a predetermined number. Example, the next player tosses in 1 bean and says,
*“One more is 5.”* - Once students have reached the predetermined number, a player begins this time by taking 1 or 2 out of the bowl/lid. Example,
*“Two less than 50 is 48.”* - Play continues in this way until students arrive back at zero. Example,
*“One less than 48 is 47.”*, and so on.

**Line Up**

This activity helps students understand when there is more, less, or the same/equal. It also helps students see how they can tell the difference between two quantities.

**You Will Need:** bag of two-sided beans (with a predetermined number) and a small cup

**Number of Students:** one student, with a partner (working together with one cup of beans), or in a small guided math group (each student with a cup of beans)

- Each student empties his/her bag of beans into the cup.
- Then he/she gently shakes the cup and spills the beans onto the work area.
- He/she pairs the beans into color/plain bean pairs. See photo.
- Students then tell which bean they have more/less of, how many more/less beans of one there are than the other.

Students can draw models to match their beans and use numbers and words to explain how many more/less there are or if there is a equal number of beans. This activity can also be easily extended into a discussion of finding difference (subtraction), a concept that is often difficult for students to understand. How about using this activity when working with even/odd numbers to 20? Students can easily see beans without a pair AND whether there are two equal groups.

**Spill the Beans**

**You Will Need:** bag of two-sided beans (with a predetermined number), a small cup, **bean printout**

**Number of Students:** Can be done on own, with a partner (working together with one cup of beans), or in a small guided math group (each student with a cup of beans)

**Directions:**

- Each student empties his/her bag of beans into the cup.
- Then he/she gently shakes the cup and spills the beans onto the work area.
- He/she carefully examines the beans and colors a model on the printout to match how the beans spilled.
- An equation is then written to accompany the model.
- The student continues spilling the beans, creating models and equations on the printout. If he/she beans spill the same way as they already have, he/she simply spills the beans again.

**Here are some other versions of “Spill the Beans” that I found online:**

**Kinderplans – Spill the Beans Addition and Subtraction**

** First Grade Garden – Spill the Beans
Spill the Beans – In and Out**

**Spill the Beans by Katherine Kuhns**

**Mrs. McDowell’s – Shake the Beans**

**Made for First Grade – Shake Those Beans**

**Hide-and-Seek**

**You Will Need: bag beans (with a predetermined number) and a small cup**

**Number of Students: 2**

**Directions: ** This activity is done the same as ** The Bean Test**, as described above, except a cup is used to hide beans on the work area. Consider also using this activity to model subtraction (taking away). For example, a student says,

*“I have ten beans. Six beans are now hiding (student turns cup over to cover six beans). How many bean are not hiding?”*Students can use dry erase boards to draw models and accompanying equations as well.

**Five Frames and Ten Frames with Beans
**

**Five frame **or** ten frame **printouts can be used in a variety of ways with beans. Beans are used just like counters and can be used plain or with two sides. When using two-sided beans, two different addends can be represented on five or ten frames. Here’s a great activity that encourages visualization using beans and a ten frame–**Jumping Beans**. The possibilities are many!

**Early Counting and Beans**

Beans are great for helping develop one-to-one correspondence, cardinality, and subitizing. * Fill the Towers* is game that requires the counting of objects and making comparisons (found in

*). Beans are perfect for this game!*

**Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics PreK-2 by Van de Walle, Lovin, Karp, and Bay-Williams****Fill the Towers**

**You Will Need:** beans, a die, and a **tower printout** for each player

**Number of Players:** 2 (or more depending on preference)

**Directions:**

- Player one rolls the die and collects the number of beans as rolled.
- Then he/she places the counters in one of the towers.
- Play continues in this way with players taking turns. The object of the game is to fill all of the towers with beans.

The authors of * Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics PreK-2* suggest that the game can adapted by requiring that towers only be filled with an exact roll. For example, if there are four empty spaces in a tower, a student would have to roll a four to fill the tower. The game can also be adapted by labeling a die with two to three dots for students who struggle with counting until they are ready to move on to greater numbers.

Here are some other great counting activities I found online:

**Beans and Flower Pots Counting**

**Counting Cups**

**Bean Counter Sticks**

I’m sure many of you have seen bean counters made with beans and Popsicle sticks. Here is a great freebie that shows **ways to use bean counters**!

**Early Place Value with Bean Counters**

Visit **Kindergarten Crayons** to learn more about using Popsicle stick bean counters to help students develop early place value concepts–**Don’t Spill the Beans**.

I hope you find something you are able to use with your kids! Also, please feel free to share any activities/games you use with beans in a comment!

I am linking up this post with 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made-It because these beanie friends are so easy to make! Check out other Monday Made-Its by clicking the logo below.

**BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE…**

Want to win a class set of two-sided beans (30 baggies of 10 beans)? I have them all painted and ready to bag! If so, enter the giveaway below!

Good luck!

Lynn says

What a thorough post! Thanks for the many ideas of enhancing students’ fact fluency!