Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cuisenaire Rods in the Classroom

Hi Friends! I'm excited to be stepping aside today and letting my good friend Sally DeCost from Elementary Matters take the lead.  She has a great post about using Cuisenair Rods for addition and subtraction practice. I hope you enjoy reading her post!  Be sure to visit her blog when you are finished here! 

Hi!  I'm Sally from Elementary Matters!  I'm thrilled to be guest posting for Teach the Math!

Brain Research tells us that being physically involved with the learning process helps learning. It also suggests that use of color helps make connections.  Teachers know that kids (and adults) tend to key into color, and children love to use manipulatives!

With Cuisenaire Rods (see picture) the white rod, the smallest, is one cubic centimeter.  (This is the same size as a standard base ten block.) The longest rod is orange.  When the children put the rods by length, they make a colorful "staircase".   (See picture.)

The children can then assign values to each rod by color based upon the relationship of the other rods.

Wouldn't your
students love to dig into these?  Mine do!
The first few times the children use the Cuisenaire Rods, they should be given opportunities to figure out the value of each color.
Once they've mastered that (and it doesn't take long!), they're ready to combine the Cuisenaire Rods to create addition and subtraction facts.

I like to start with sets of ten, since our number system is based on ten.  It's good for them to know those combinations of ten!

Since the orange rod has a value of 10, this picture shows 9 + 1 = 10.   It also shows 1 + 9 = 10.  It also shows 10 - 1 = 9 as well as 10 - 9 = 1.

What fact family do these blocks show?  7 + 3 = 10, 3 + 7 = 10, 10 - 7 = 3, and 10 - 3 = 7.  

This one shows 6 + 6 = 12 and 12 - 6 = 6.

The Cuisenaire Rods can also be used for multiple addends or even multiplication. This could be 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 12 or 3 x 4 = 12.

When it comes to storage, the containers the rods come in are tricky for the kids to put away.  I put my Cuisenaire Rods into a container much easier for little hands.

I made these center sheets for the students.  I prefer the children work with partners on activities like this since the conversations they have help the learning.  If you run these off back to back, you can make two sided, half size papers. Click on the image on the left to download the file.

For a whole set of sheets like this (For families 6 - 20), click here:

I've also found a link for online Cuisenaire Rods!

I hope your students enjoy learning math facts with Cuisenaire Rods as much as mine do!


  1. Hi Sally and Dr. Penny.....just wanted to let you know that the link to the freebie doesn't seem to work.


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