Cuisenaire Rods

Based on Carol Stephenson’s Mathematics Lesson

To view a detailed lesson plan, please click here

Curriculum – Number Sense and Numeration

For students to begin to develop an understanding of numbers using concrete materials to explore and investigate counting, quantity, and number relationships.


 Students and the teacher begin by sitting on the floor with a working mat in front of them.


  • Cuisenaire rods
  • Working mat for each student


  • Lay out the cuisenaire rods and explain that each rod can be assigned a number
  • Hold up one of the rods and ask the kids to grab the same colour rod as you.


  • Then say, “If I gave this rod the number 2, what number do you think this rod would be?” (hold up the immediate next rod, 3). Take an opportunity to hear the children’s opinions about which number the rod may represent and why.
  • Show the rod immediately before the 2nd rod and ask children what they think that rod may represent.
    – Wait to hear their answers and reasoning or strategies behind their response.
  • Ask the students what they think will happen if a #1 rod is put on top of another #1 rod. Try it out and students will see that if you put the # 1 rod on top of another #1 rod, it is the same height as the #2 rod.
  • After establishing the #1, #2, and #3 rods and the numbers they represent, skip the #4 rod and instead show the #5 rod and ask students what number they think it will represent. Ask students how they figured it out.


  • Fill in the rest of the numbers and ask students what they notice about all of the lined up rods.

Extension Lesson and Activities
Combinations of 10

  • Demonstrate that if you put a rod #5 and #5 together (one on top of another) it makes 10.
  • Then ask students if they can figure out to put 2 rods together to make 10 in total.
  • Students can work in pairs to make as many different combinations as possible.
  • Bring students back to the whole group and ask them to share one of the combinations they made.
  • Ask each subsequent pair of students to share a different combination. Students will be able to see the combinations that make 10 because they will all be the same height.

Create your own combination

  • Students roll 2 dice and add the numbers together.
  • Using the cuisenaire rods, students show different ways to make that number.
  • Take pictures of all the different combinations students made.

Making math equations

  • Print out the pictures and have each student choose 3 favourite combinations. Have the student write the math equations. For example, ______ + ______ = _______.