What are these rods exactly? What is the purpose? Are they just like any other building blocks out there in the market? How are they different from other wooden blocks?

By definition: Cuisenaire rods are rectangular rods that provide hands-on way to learn mathematics (learning through play)

A child can learn mathematical concepts such as the four arithmetic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division), fractions, ratio and proportion. And also, other mathematical concepts like counting, sequencing, patterns.

The design of the Cuisenaire rods:

These are 10 rectangular rods of different length and colour. Each colour corresponding to a number (1-10).

Beginning with the smaller rod “white” which corresponds to number “one”

White = 1

And the largest rod “orange” which corresponds to the number “ten”


The play with Cuisenaire rods:

Free play: When the child is simply let to play with these rods, they will eventually bounce back with amazing ideas to play with it, just like any other open-ended toy. They start getting creative at their play.

Counting, sequencing and patterns: As each rod represents a number, on practice the child will understand the relation between the colour rod and the number. Rolling a dice activity helps the child in understanding the values of each rod. How is this done? Roll a dice (1-6), read the number shown on the dice when rolled, and count and take that many white rods. Lay them down horizontally, now look into the other rods and find the rod that matches the length of the horizontally laid rods. So, using the white rod the value of the coloured rods is understood.

Followed by number sequencing, also sequencing can happen on comparison between the rods (shortest-longest).

And the child is free to create their own patterns, or you can create a pattern and ask your child to replicate the pattern.

Understanding Numbers: This is the first basic and important concept to begin with. To understand that the difference between each number in the number sequence is 1. This can be done by making a staircase – by using one of every rod that will clearly showcase each rod in relation with the next.

Make a Staircase: Start with the smallest and place the rods in ascending order.

Extending the staircase will help counting and working with larger number like (11-20)

Number train: By rods being placed end-to-end. Here the child gets to understand how a number can be constructed with the same size rod and different size rods.

You can set a few questions to let the child work on this concept, make it challenging for the child.

  • Different coloured rods same length: using two coloured rods, three coloured rods
  • Using same coloured rods: work on the length of the rods.

And now you can also do a simple activity with your child for same length– choose a number rod, let’s say orange rod for example. Now present the orange rod (number 10) in front of your child, ask the child to use the other rods and try make an equivalent length to number 10. The child will work on the various possibilities to equalise to the number.

Work on these rods to understand the concept of “length” – shorter and longer.

Addition: The activity mentioned earlier “equivalent to the length of the given number rod”, can be done for addition.

You can ask the child to limit to two rods to start with, and gradually increase the number of rods and finally to find all the ways of making the same length as the other given rod.

Subtraction: Talking about differences, let the child pick two rods and place them alongside each other, now compare the two rods and find the difference – the length difference between the two rods is the solution, find the rod that fits your solution.

Multiplication: for multiplication you got to use rods of two different colours, one rod will be constant the other keeps changes. For the constant rod the number of rods will change, now for example: you happen to choose a blue rod which represents number 6, and you pick 2 blue rods, this will be (6*2).

Working on the solution: lay the blue rods alongside each other, now look for rods that will exactly fit on top of the blue rod. In this case, it will be 6 red rods, value of red rod is 2. So, the solution will be 12.


Division: Choose a rod and let the child make same colour train using smaller rods (smaller rods compared to the rod chosen) – try all possibilities to begin with. If the smaller rods don’t fit in the to the length of the bigger rod, then the gap left will be the remainder. If they fit in, then the number of the smaller rod is your answer.

For example: let’s use the orange rod, value of the rod is 10. Work on all the possibilities and build number trains. Now, considering the yellow (value 10) and red rods (value 2) , so the question is 10 divided by 2 (10/2), it takes 5 red rods to equalize to the length of orange rod, hence your answer is “5”.

You will notice that there are no reminders for trains made with rod: red (value 2), yellow (value 5), white (1). There will be remainders for trains made with rods: green (value 3), purple (value 4).


Working on simple fractions. Let’s go with an example, will be easier to explain and understand.

Now, to show 1/2 , it could be : half of red rod (value 2) is white rod (vale 1), half of blue rod (value 6) is green rod (value 3)

This could be 3/5 : value of green rod is 3 and yellow rod is 5.

When it comes to fraction – the white rod doesn’t remain with the value one always and it shouldn’t be one always. Sometimes, the value of white rod is 1/4.

All that I have shared are just some of the basics, these Cuisenaire rods are worth more.

And here is a discount code for you : you can avail a 15% off – use code “atoddlerdrama15”

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