I totally borrowed this idea from I can Teach My Child. When I saw it, I knew it was not only something I wanted to make for my kids, but something I wanted to make for my preschool room and it was one of the ideas I wanted to share at our 'back to school teacher idea sharing meeting'.
Pool noodles are cut into 1 1/2 -2 inch segments and programmed with numbers (or letters, or whatever you want to) using a nice sharpie. I used cheap clothesline from the dollar store for the stringing. I will have the kiddos add the numbers 1-10 in order. You could easily make it counting by 5s, 10s, etc.
Each string is knotted into the head and the trailing string behind just needs to be left long enough for the pieces that will go on it. I wrapped some packing tape around the end so it wouldn't fray.
I made one for Bee with addition and subtraction and equal signs in a different color so she can work on number sentences. I am a little concerned about the pieces rolling everywhere when we get them out at school. I'm going to have to really think through the management of the materials. That can make or break an activity with 18 tiny people.