The Warlord’s Beads


This is an activity based on the picture book The Warlord’s Beads

Achievement Objectives
NA3-4: Know how many tenths, tens, hundreds, and thousands are in whole numbers.
Specific Learning Outcomes
  1. Students will be able to model their place value understanding by creating a whole number counting frame.
  2. Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of decimal place value by modeling large numbers on counting frames.
Description of Mathematics
  1. The decimal place value system works on the principle that each place is worth 10x the amount of the place immediately to its right.
  2. The count of a large set can be represented by a model that uses items to stand for the number of groups within place value places.
Required Resource Materials
Construction materials (card, pipe cleaners, straws, etc)

Place value counting frames or whiteboard/digital models

The Warlord’s Beads by Virginia Walton Pilegard


This activity is based on the picture book: The Warlord’s Beads

Author: Virginia Walton Pilegard
Illustrator: Nicholas Debon
Publisher: Pelican (2001)
ISBN: 978-1-56554-863-3

This is another “mathematical adventure” in the Warlord series that takes place in ancient China. This time, the apprentice develops a system for keeping track of the important counting his father is required to do as a member of the Emperor’s staff. A counting frame is used to model the place value groupings of the count.

Lesson Sequence:

  1. Prior to reading, present a large number counting problem such as “Imagine this jar of beads/counters/marbles (make sure it is a large number so there would be some problem in getting an accurate count or losing count) is actually precious stones owned by a royal family. It is very important that you as the royal counter give an accurate count. How could you keep track and be confident you reached the right number in the set?”
    Tip the jar into a large tray or onto the mat and ask students to brainstorm about possible ways of keeping track of a count. What could they use to help them? What kinds of things may make you lose count or get it wrong?
  2. Share the book with your students. As you read the story, stop to discuss what the problem is that has interfered with the count at different points. What solution has the apprentice developed? What sort of situations would people nowadays have to keep a close count?
  3. For example use the following in a warehouse the item (1), the box (10 items), the crate (10 boxes-100 items), the pallet (10 crates-1000 items). If you have place value counting frames use these, other wise you can access images of them online and make one on your whiteboard with a drawing and magnetic/blue-tac circles.

    Model different amounts in the warehouse on the counting frame until students are confident in representing whole numbers.
  4. Ask students to create a counting frame that can be used to model large sets. They can be given the plan in the back of the book or challenged to be more creative and create a frame from their imagination.
    For example, create a digital counting frame using the animation functions on power point, or a counting frame that uses only paper, or uses only naturally occurring materials (sticks, stones etc). What would a counting frame made by Dr Seuss look like?
    As an extension, students can explore how their counting frame would need to be modified to represent fractional amounts (decimals to 1 place).

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