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.

place value | cuisenaire rods | supplementing A Beka

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…”

place value | cuisenaire rods | supplementing A Beka

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.

Playing the "magic" game; Middle-est is calling the colors

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!

light green+yellow=brown, or 3+5=8

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.

Our School Journal: Entry 31

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life this week…

I’m still checking off on my pregnancy project list, trying to get things in some kind of order before the baby comes. Eight more weeks, folks! This week, my project was to get started on updating (or at least cleaning out) my household notebook. And I found some great new planner forms that I am really enjoying using.

I’ve also been scouting the internet for our curriculum choices for next year (I think I was doing that last week, too).

Oh, and don’t forget to check out my review of iPlanLessons homeschool lesson planning app for the iPod/iPad.

In our homeschool this week…

We’ve had such a great week overall. I can’t tell you the difference it has made to let my preschooler choose a lot of her activities. I think it has taken a huge burden off all of us.

Her favorite monkey made it into her pockets this week. I just had to get a picture.

I’ve tried a different approach with my son’s math this week, having him do more writing. Since he just isn’t getting a lot of the combinations down with the flashcards, I thought perhaps that writing them out would help. Still in the experimental stage on that, so I cannot yet report success or failure. But he loves doing it. I either have him write what he has missed on the chalkboard, or I’ll give him some manipulatives and will have him write on the whiteboard all the combinations he can make (for instance, how many different groups can you make with 5 counting bears?).

I also started looking at Math Mammoth curriculum. I love the approach, the style, and the price. But it is about a year behind A Beka it seems. The first grade material would be a great reinforcement to all he has learned in K5. (But, of course, a slower pace might be just what we need). I am thinking of perhaps using it this summer. Hmmm. The website has a huge selection of samples to print off and try, so I have been doing that with my son, too. But, of course, without all of the lessons it’s hard to know for sure if the progression of ideas will work with him. But I am really intrigued by the system, which is based on mastering (with drill and review worked in) rather than spiraling. I’ve read that it is a lot like Singapore math, only with a lot more worksheets per concept.

I’m wondering if “spiraling” in math is just not for me, the teacher. Covering so many topics at the same time (coins, time, addition, skip counting, etc. all in one lesson!) is tough! Maybe I’m a unit-style teacher—one thing at at time, please!

Anyhow, I’m doing a lot of pondering and self-evaluating this week.

My favorite thing this week was…

By far the highlight of the week was a trip to a homeschool consignment store!

Because we live in a rural area, our consignment store is about an hour and a half drive—quite a journey. And we went in true homeschool style. A friend of mine came with me, so we had two 4 year olds, two 3 year olds, and a 4 month old infant between us (and me with my huge baby belly). That’s five car seats in one vehicle! (I was glad to know that was possible.) We had an absolute blast!

And I found a great deal on some cuisenaire rods. (Thanks for all the feedback last week!) They had a set of 155 wooden rods with the Mathematics Made Meaningful book/cards for only $15! Brand new the set would have cost about $40 (see the new set).  I also picked up a cuisenaire workbook (Prek-8th grade concepts) for $5. So, I felt like I really scored, especially when I absolutely could not get my kids’ little hands out of the box while I was checking to make sure all the pieces were there.

I’m sure a review will be in order after playing around with them for awhile. I can’t wait!

A photo, video, link, or quote to share…

I’m running a giveaway for an Usborne Encyclopedia this week, along with a series of posts on all of the ways we love to use Usborne in our homeschool.
The giveaway is for an Usborne Encyclopedia of World History or an Usborne Encyclopedia of the Ancient World—your choice!
So, please stop in and enter while you’re here!