Topics: Addition, subtraction, measurement, skip counting
Why We Love Cuisenaire Rods
Lesson 1: Free Play and Grab Bag
- Game 1: One of each color in the bag.
- Game 2-3: Two of each color in the bag.
- Game 4-5: Three of each color in the bag.
- Game 6: Students handpick 10 – 30 rods to put in the bag to try to make it as challenging as possible.
Lesson 2: Counting the Staircase, Making Yellows
Materials: Cuisenaire rods, paper and pencil
Challenge students to make the staircase of every color from last time. Once they have built it, ask how many white cubes it would take to cover/build a duplicate copy of the red rod. What about the light green rod? The purple rod? No matter their answers, ask them to defend their answers. Give them time to work on their own to figure out how many white cubes it would take to build a duplicate of any rod.
Discuss with students what numbers they got for different rods, and what their strategies were to determine the number of cubes. Did they need to build every rod using all white cubes? Or did they use what they had found about smaller rods to build the larger ones? (I.e., the dark green is a yellow plus a white, and the yellow is 5 white, so the dark green is 5 + 1 = 6 whites.) Demonstrate how a way of building Cuisenaire rods corresponds to an equation, and let students try saying and writing an equation that they found.
NOTE: These equations may have more than two addends.
Lesson 3: Cuisenaire Rod Fill-ins
Part 1. Gather the students together and challenge them to fill in the Numbers Fill-ins with Cuisenaire rods. Pass out the Number Fill-ins. For the first 5-10 minutes, let students work on their own. Observe how they are filling in the outlines.
Part 4. (Optional) Students can try making two-digit numbers, or filling in other designs like the spiral.
Lesson 4: Same Difference
Lesson 5: Which Line is Longer?
Tips for the Classroom
- If students don’t know how to get started on their own, encourage them to compare just two cards at a time.
- This is a great project for groups of 2 or 3 students to work on at a time.
- There’s a surprise for the kids as they build: these Cuisenaire rod lines create a symmetrical design when you put them all together (see the right drawing below). Encourage students to keep all their lines as they build. Two natural arrangements are below. When the students are done building, pose the question of why these show up in pairs that are the same length. Students won’t be equipped to answer this, but it is an excellent issue for them to wonder about.
- Look at the differences in the lengths, building on the last lesson. Is there a pattern in the differences?