Cuisenaire rods

Maths is a daily topic of conversation with Aaron at the moment. He’s been able to do simple addition and subtraction for ages, and I introduced the concept of division (sharing things out) several months ago. We haven’t really touched on multiplication yet, but as Aaron started to add more than two numbers at once he discovered it for himself. He’s begun saying things like “six ones is six” or asking me what three eights are.

Until now Aaron has been surprisingly good at working things out in his head, but as he begins working with larger numbers and more challenging concepts I feel that he needs concrete manipulatives to help him reach the correct answer. Time to get our Cuisenaire rods out while he is showing an interest!

First we explored the fact that each rod has a number value.


Aaron soon realised that he could add the rods together in different ways to make the same number.


Then we worked out some different ways to make ten by adding two numbers.


There were some interesting patterns to notice.


As we discovered each number bond, we recorded it with our magnetic numbers.


Then we challenged ourselves to find other ways to make ten, using as many rods as we liked.


After lunch, we played a “race to 30” game. We all took it in turns to roll the die and add the corresponding rod to our track. I need to get another die so that we can add and multiply the rods too!


I’ve had this brilliant list of suggestions for Playing with Cuisenaire Rods bookmarked for ages, so I expect we’ll be using some of the ideas over the next few weeks.

Cuisenaire Rods aren’t a traditional Montessori material but they do share similarities with number rods and bead stairs, making them a reasonable alternative for those on a budget or with limited storage space. The only disadvantages are that they aren’t segmented to show each unit and they can’t be used as hundred squares or thousand cubes, but I think we’ll probably move onto a base ten set later on.


    • Sarah

      I bought them from Learning Resources via Amazon, as Cuisenaire no longer sell the wooden ones directly. Personally I’m glad we went with these first as the colours make it quick and easy to identify the different values, and we’ll get plenty of use out of them before needing to worry about 100s and 1000s. They also look much nicer than the one-colour plastic ones and are fun for just playing with!

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