Five activities you didn’t know you could do with Cuisenaire® Rods

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What are
Cuisenaire® Rods?

Cuisenaire® Rods are colourful rods that can be used for small groups or whole class work to help children understand mathematical concepts. The rods come in different sizes and colours, and each colour represents a different rod length that can each be assigned numeric values or units of measure. Learning Resources® offer three different types of rods; wooden, plastic and interlocking plastic, and each are available in three different sizes: introductory, small group and classroom multi pack.

Cuisenaire® Rods are a hands-on teaching resource. They relate abstract ideas about numbers and shapes to something children can see and touch. This makes mathematical ideas easier to internalise and encourages children to solve abstract problems they may not otherwise be able to. These rods were invented by Georges Cuisenaire. He discovered that by making use of children’s natural inclination to play and giving them an appealing material which demonstrated the relationships on which mathematics is based, it was possible to provide understanding for them all.


1. Wooden Cuisenaire® Rods Introductory Set (Set of 74)

2. Plastic Cuisenaire® Rods Introductory Set (Set of 74)

3. Interlocking Plastic Cuisenaire® Rods Introductory Set (Set of 74)


Learning Resources® also offer a Cuisenaire® Jr. set called Ants on a Log™ for younger learners aged four and above. This set provides a simple introduction to Cuisenaire® Rods with soft plastic pieces featuring a digit on one side and the corresponding number of ants on the reverse.




What types of activities are Cuisenaire® Rods used for?

  • Addition and subtraction
  • Multiplication and division
  • Measurement
  • Algebra
  • Creating models
  • Investigating
    fractions with rod pairs
  • Finding
    equivalent fractions
  • Exploring ratio
  • Perimeters
  • Spatial Reasoning


Five other ways you can use Cuisenaire® Rods:

1) Rhythm Blocks

Rods can be used to show visual representation of musical notes. This will help children and/or adults understand the note’s relative duration and improve their ability to recognise them within a score.


2) Creative Construction

Using Cuisenaire® Rods freely to create designs and structures introduces children to measurement, proportion and 3D shapes. It also encourages children to notice rod attributes and relationships. For instance, that all blue rods are the same size, two red rods equal a purple rod, or a purple rod is one white rod less than the yellow one. Share your new Cuisenaire Rod creations with us today! Here are some creations we love that have been shared on Pinterest:



3) Learning the value of coins

When each rod size is placed next to each other, they increase in increments of 10%. This means that they can be assigned to a coin value and used to improve children’s financial awareness. Assigning a rod to a coin value and experiment with how many rod/coin combinations can make up a certain amount.


The Cuisenaire® Jr. Ants on a Log™ set can be used to help children with early addition of coins. Attach a 1p to the rod that shows one ant and a 2p to the rod that shows two ants and complete basic addition sums such as 2p + 2p. Children can then add the total number of ants to reach the answer.


4) Symmetry

Cuisenaire® rods can be used to familiarise children with symmetry. Draw a line down the middle of a page of plain or graph paper and create half of a picture on one side. Provide an array of coloured rods and ask children to individually complete the picture making sure that everything is symmetrical. They can test their symmetry using a mirror along the middle line. To make the activity easier only provide the rods necessary to complete the image.



5) Words and sentences

The rods can be used to highlight the number of syllables within words. This activity is effective as a whole class activity using the Giant Magnetic Cuisenaire® Rods Demonstration Set. This will help children to see, as well as hear, where the stress is placed. This is also helpful for children learning English as an additional language, as words that may appear to have three syllables can be visually shown as having two, making them easier to repeat and memorise. The rods can also be used to show the number of letters in a word. This can be set as a group or individual task, where children match coloured rods to the word with the corresponding number of letters.



Children can also associate a certain colour rod to nouns, verbs, adjectives and punctuation in a sentence.

View the full range of Cuisenaire® Rods here.