Triple Addend Addition: Colored Bead Stair

Triple Addends were never so colorful. These come after learning basic single digit addition from my previous post – here – and also knowing how to make teens and tens with the colored and golden beads.


Here we go…

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1. Colored Bead Bars

2. Golden Bead Bars

3. Pointer (to count beads)

4. Addition symbol (I used a clear, flat gem like these and drew + with a black permanent marker)

5. Ribbon, stick or yarn for equals symbol

6. Colored pencils – match each colored bead bar

7. Colored Bead Stair Journal or Paper (I use the CBS Paper in this post)


Set all of your materials up, leaving enough space to the left or right of your bead boxes to create your triple addend problems.

Randomly draw a bead bar from the colored bead bar box. I normally have the kids close their eyes or look away while they’re choosing a bead bar.

Place the first bead bar well above your ribbon to leave space for two more bead bars.

Choose two more bead bars and place them directly beneath each other making a straight, perpendicular line to the ribbon.

Observe your setup and pick up the pointer.

Using your pointer, start to count from the first bead of the first bead bar. You can do this a couple of ways: one is to stop counting when you get to ten. Leave the pointer sitting on the tenth bead while you get a golden ten bar and place it underneath your ribbon. Continue counting the rest of the beads, then retrieve the rest of your answer. Another option is to count all of the beads, and then retrieve a ten bar and the eight bar at the same time.

Set the one ten and the eight bar underneath the ribbon. This is the sum of the triple addends.

Count the sum using the pointer – I always have my students double check. This is one way they may move too quickly and write down the wrong answer.

Record the answer on the Colored Bead Stair Paper. Since the paper is already white, I show the child to use the black colored pencil just to outline the circles representing the seven bead bar.

Fill in for all of the colored beads on your paper, paying attention to including the addition symbol and the equals line. There is no particular science behind turning the sum of 18 sideways, only that there was no more room at the bottom.

Compare your concrete work to your more abstract work, and pat yourself on the back for finishing your first triple addend addition problem!

Let’s try another…

Lay out three bead bars chosen randomly.

Using your pointer, count the beads beginning with the first set.

Once you get to ten beads, set a ten bead bar beneath the equals line. Count the rest of the beads.

Your answer is 11.


Now record your problem onto the Colored Bead Stair Paper.


You now have two triple addend addition problems recorded onto your paper!

Now we will try a problem where our sum is involving multiple tens. We’ll also record it only using numbers on our Colored Bead Stair Paper.


Randomly select the three bead bars and place them in a line, perpendicular to the equals sign.

Count up to ten, then set the pointer down right below the tenth bead.

Place one ten bead bar underneath the equals line.

Pick up the pointer and count to the next set of ten.

Set the counter down below the next set of ten beads and place another ten bead bar next to the first ten bead bar.

Pick up the pointer and count the remaining beads.

Place the remaining bead bar next to the two ten bars. Count with the child – you can either count by tens 10, 20, 23! Repeat the problem, then say equals 23. Now record it on your paper….

If coloring in the bead bars is getting too monotonous for the child, allow them to switch to writing the numbers into the circles instead. I have them do this a couple of different ways. One is to have the child write the number with the corresponding colored pencil. Another is to use a lead pencil to write the number, then use the corresponding colored pencil to trace the circle around the number.

Once the paper is filled up with the number of problems the child is to accomplish, give a big high five and let them decompress!

Next Up: The Case of the Missing Addends

About Miranda

* Pisces. Eclectic. Indigo. Mother. Wife. Teacher. Herbalist. Scientist. Fantasy. Outdoors. Ocean. Crafty. Dreamer. * Found out more in the About section.

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