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Math Fun with Cuisenaire Rods

Updated on August 23, 2017

Using Cuisenaire Rods

Activities for Cuisenaire Rods
Activities for Cuisenaire Rods | Source

Fun Math with Cuisenaire Rods!

Math will no longer be boring when you introduce your children to Cuisenaire Rods. Fun Math begins the moment you open the box. Cuisenaire Rods appeal to your five senses.

See the math fun... Cuisenaire Rods come in a rainbow of colors!

Close your eyes and feel the math... Wooden Cuisenaire Rods feel delightful when you pick them up.

Hear the your hands through a pile of Cuisenaire Rods and listen to the math tinkle. Drop the rods one at a time and listen to them play music. Did you know that you can actually play music with Cuisenaire Rods? We'll learn more about that later.

Smell the newness of your math blocks and imagine tasting, oh, well, did you really think we would taste the blocks? Taste and smell will certainly be a part of our math fun as you will see...

Come open the box, take out your Cuisenaire Rods and let the fun math exploration begin...

Cuisenaire Rods

Cuisenaire Rods
Cuisenaire Rods | Source

Wooden Cuisenaire Rods - Math is Fun with Cuisenaire Rods

Start with a bucket of wooden Cuisenaire Rods. This bucket of math blocks comes with 50 white, 25 red, 16 light green, 12 purple, 10 yellow, eight dark green, seven black, eight brown, nine blue, and 10 orange rods for a total of 155 wooden blocks. Each block measures one centimeter square on the end. The lengths of the rods increase by one centimeter with each color in the above order until you get to the ten centimeter long orange rod.

But what is it about these blocks that makes math fun?

Cuisenaire Rods turn meaningless numbers into something that children can see and feel. The more senses that a child uses, the more integrated the concepts will be. With understanding, math becomes fun. Throughout this article you will find fun math games to play with your children. The more they play with math, the deeper their understanding of the mathematical concepts will be and the more fun they will have with math.

Learning Resources Cuisenaire Rods Small Group Set: Wood
Learning Resources Cuisenaire Rods Small Group Set: Wood

Wooden blocks from one square cube to 10 centimeter long blocks in increments of one centimeter longer with each one.


Fun Math poll - Do you agree that math is fun?

Wooden Cuisenaire Rods
Wooden Cuisenaire Rods | Source

Is math fun?

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Adding Fractions with Cuisenaire Rods - Cuisenaire Rods Fractions

Jumbo Wooden Cuisenaire Rods

Jumbo Cuisenaire Rods Class Set
Jumbo Cuisenaire Rods Class Set

When building skyscrapers, we soon found that the Jumbo Cuisenaire Rods were far superior to the small centimeter ones. The fatter ones seem to stay up better.

The jumbo Cuisenaire Rods are easy-to-handle for younger children. They are made of natural wood in pleasing colors. These jumbo rods that range in size from a 2-cm cube to a 2 cm x 2 cm x 20 cm rod.

The set includes 154 Cuisenaire Rods in the same colors as the smaller rods.


Play Dough Stabilizes Cuisenaire Rod Towers

Cuisenaire Rod Skyscrapers

Children love to build towers with blocks so what better way to help your children learn addition and subtraction? I first ran across this activity when the parents of one of my students gave me a MathUSee math kit. The moment I read through the activity I knew my students would love it.

We added hundreds blocks from a base ten kit to form the floors for each story.

When introducing the idea to the children I started out with each side being 5 blocks high. The children quickly caught onto the idea and loved it.

They found all the yellow blocks and built the tower higher and higher.

Soon, however, we ran out of yellow blocks. What could we do?

After brainstorming and a bit of trial and error, the children discovered that a white and a purple together (1+4) or a red with a light green (2+3) was the same height as a yellow (5).

We also discovered that we couldn't get the towers very high before they toppled over.

Our solution was to use the 1 inch jumbo Cuisenaire blocks. They worked much better but still toppled over quite easily.

Recently I discovered that someone else has come up with an even more stable solution: play dough. Check out the video to the right...

Math is Fun with Cuisenaire Rods!

Have you discovered how much fun math can be?

Have you ever played with Cuisenaire Rods?

Mathematics At Your Fingertips - Cuisenaire Rods are Classic Math Manipulatives

Journaling about Cuisenaire Math Activities

Math Journal
Math Journal | Source

Keeping a Math Journal

When children record what they are learning in a math journal they process the information in a way that helps them to retain and later use that information. Marilyn Burns, who taught math for over 30 years. One of my favorite activities that she suggested is to journal about the math you are learning taught her students to write down their thoughts on math processes on a daily basis. When I began using math journals with my students we discovered that the children were more able to remember and use the skills that were being taught the next time those processes were needed.

When learning with Cuisenaire Rods we found that centimeter square graph paper pages were perfect for journaling about the fun math activities they were learning. Journaling encourages children to think deeply about what they are learning in order to explain it in words.

Writing in Math Class

Writing in Math Class: Resource For Grades 2-8
Writing in Math Class: Resource For Grades 2-8

In her book, Writing in Math Class, Marilyn Burns explains how writing helps children to sort, clarify and define their thinking about the mathematical concepts they are learning. Ms. Burns demonstrates various different types of writing related to math.


Source for Wooden Cuisenaire Rods - Where can I find Wooden Cuisenaire Rods?

The very best Cuisenaire Rods are wooden ones. Plastic ones just can't compare in looks, texture or sound. On eBay you may even find ones with the patina of age.

I have also found wooden Cuisenaire Rods on Amazon, at yard sales and church rummage sales. I never pass up the chance to increase the number we have in the classroom.

Cuisenaire Rods - Manipulating Cuisenaire Rods

Cuisenaire Rods
Cuisenaire Rods | Source

Do you use Cuisenaire Rods?

When you comment on this article be sure to mention whether or not you have ever used Cuisenaire Rods and if you have ever compared wooden Cuisenaire Rods with Plastic ones. After using Wooden Cuisenaire Rods did you suddenly feel that math was fun?

Mentioning Math! - Commenting on Cuisenaire Rods!

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    • Adventuretravels profile image


      4 years ago from UK

      Brilliant lens. really helpful -great ideas. Thank you from one teacher to another :) I have pinned this and shared it all over my network!

    • Erin Mellor profile image

      Erin Mellor 

      4 years ago from Europe

      My eldest sister had these and I used to love playing with them. I was at university before I found out they were an educational aid, I just thought they were a fun way to build, play, make pictures, compare color values ... oh wait, I was really good at maths when I started school. My pesky parents conned me into studying again.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Never seen or heard of them, but they are going on my must buy list, thanks for the great lens. Sue

    • evelynsaenz1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Evelyn Saenz 

      6 years ago from Royalton

      @BarbaraCasey: I like the big wooden rods for building up. The small ones are fine for other math activities.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      My son's Montessori school used wooden rods. They were really big on them for teaching math.

    • Frischy profile image


      7 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      I have not used these, but I think they would be both fun and useful in learning math.

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 

      7 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      We used these when we were homeschooling.... lots of fun and educational too!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow - as soon as I saw these I thought they looked familiar and they seemed to bring back a memory. Then I thought they're probably not that old, though. Then I scrolled further down and saw a vintage set on eBay, and sure enough - I would've been about 5 or six when that set came out! I'm sure I have played with them. And just looking at them and remembering, I believe they would certainly make math easier to understand. (OK, OK... and more fun too!) ;-)


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