## Place Value with Cuisenaire Rods

We’re still taking our time through A Beka’s kindergarten math, rabbit trailing into other things when I feel the need to go more in depth with a concept. Place value was one of those concepts, and my rabbit trail took us to back to Math Mammoth (big surprise, right?) and our cuisenaire rods.

Because place value is such a foundational concept, I really wanted to ensure that my oldest knew this well, especially as we begin to head into more complicated addition, multiplication, etc. And Math Mammoth had some great game ideas. Though her plans call for household manipulatives (straws, beans, etc.), I couldn’t resist the opportunity to pull out our colored rods.

For our first game, I set out a handful of white “one” rods and had him group them by tens. Each set of ten he took to the “bank” and exchanged for an orange “ten” rod. Then, he would say the number of tens and the number of ones left: “1 ten and 5”; “2 tens and 3”; “3 tens and nine”; etc.

After we’d played this game for awhile, I had him count to 100 using the tens and ones method. Each time he got to the next “ten,” I’d hand him another orange rod, and he’d begin again: “1 ten and 8, 1 ten and 9, 2 tens…2 tens and 7, 2 tens and 8, 2 tens and 9, 3 tens…”

It was a great visual lesson, and I really think the c-rods were perfect for the games. Besides, it’s always so much fun to bring a little color to math. Next up, a few lessons with the abacus! I can’t wait.

## Cuisenaire Lessons

I saved our cuisenaire rods until the baby came. I wanted to save them so that I’d have a fun, novel new school lesson for them when school got to be a little more difficult for me. These have been the perfect “new baby” homeschool tool.

I was able to pick up my set from a homeschool consignment store, so I didn’t pay anywhere near what the set would have been brand new. And as I counted all the pieces in the store to be sure they were all there, I could hardly keep their hands out of it. When I pulled it out for the first time a few weeks ago, they were thrilled to finally get to touch and play in them.

Lesson 1

For the first few times, I just let them play. They made people and forts and a myriad of other things, playing in the rods much as they would in a pile of blocks or legos. My goal was to allow them to get familiar with them, to notice that there were 10 different ones, to notice that each was a different size, but all within the context of play.

Then, I had them build staircases, placing the rods side-by-side from smallest to largest. We have continued to do this each time I bring them out. It’s a visual reminder of how many there are and the size relationships. We say the colors up and down the staircase; we say the numbers up and down the staircase.

Last, we play “the magic game.” My oldest absolutely loves this game. I have them hide 3 or 4 different colors behind their backs. It has worked much better to allow them to place the rods on their chairs behind them, since sometimes it’s hard for them to hold them all. In the first round of our game, I ask for a color, and the magic is that they make that color “appear” without looking at the rods; they have to feel the rods and remember which colors are which. In the second round, I ask for the number, and they present the color that corresponds with that number. Each time we play, I add one more rod to our game, which means that we are only on the yellow #5 rod right now. It’s a gradual process, and we build on their success which is why the game is such a hit.

Lesson 2

We are just starting to go a little deeper, beyond just getting familiar. I’m starting to introduce some of the relationship concepts with Oldest, while middle-est is still grasping numbers and colors and sizes. I printed off some 1 cm graph paper specifically for c-rods. Middle-est measured each rod against the paper and colored in that many squares with the matching color. For instance, the black rod equals 7 squares, so she colored those seven squares with her black crayon.

Oldest was assigned the brown rod corresponding to 8, the addition family we are learning right now. He colored 8 squares brown, to match his rod. Then, he found two different rods that equaled 8 and colored in those rods. It illustrated the math facts that he has been learning and was just another fun way to reiterate and reinforce the information. Plus, who wouldn’t like to color their math facts!

I would say that this is not a wonder product. There has been no “a-hah” moment for us, but I do love the variety that it gives us, and I anticipate them being very helpful as we enter more complicated math. Besides, my kinesthetic middle-est is absolutely made for this kind of thing.