Thursday, 8 May 2014

Math Rods and Timers

I'm notoriously a math-hater and may have passed on the dislike to my daughter by osmosis in my tummy.  Unlike other play we do, bringing in math practice takes more brain cells from me.  

That's why I get a little kick that one of the more popular posts on this little space is our beginner round-up to using number sticks at home.  (Thank you, Living Montessori Now for the link-up)

If anyone out there dreads teaching math like me, I hope sharing these simple tools and tricks will help make things easier and *gasp* even fun.  

Click here to see how else we use timers in play

Make a line of 'puzzles' that help make math concepts of addition and subtraction familiar.  I watched this and this video on Education Unboxed for this idea.  Keep in mind these only work after mastering what rod represents what number.

This one teaches "what is one plus (a number)?"  Just count on.

This one teaches the concept of subtraction : "what rod fits in the space?"

The timer makes it a game!  Turn it over and try to do as much puzzles as you can.

Put a little bell at the end to 'ding!' when she's done.
She didn't quite grasp the concept of addition yet here -  find one stick that's the same length
as the two sticks.  But she rang that bell with gusto!

Another way to use number sticks to help visualise numbers and concepts (rather than memorising) is to bring it out in real-life applications.   You know, important stuff like waiting for Plants vs. Zombies 2 to slowly update...

Put down a hundred square to represent the end goal of 100%.
Then build the numbers with tens and unit sticks as it keeps going. 

Let them build the number on the screen : this one was 68%

Almost there!  The excitement was contagious.

Also a great opportunity to reinforce the number bonds of ten which we were learning
during this time.  What goes with eight to make a ten?  Two!  Now we made another ten!

Doesn't that make so much sense?!  It's called building number sense, which leads to mental math later on.  Kids would be able to do this much better if they have a strong understanding of the concept of our decimal system.

Lucky our children!  I'm pretty sure my math struggles are because of that lack of foundation too.  And now when numbers fly over my head during meetings, I can't keep the blank expression off my face.  Haha.

I wonder if it's too late for me?


  1. Hi! :) I discovered your blog because of your comment on The Learning Basket. Love your ideas! May I just ask where you got your cuisenaire rods? And how old is your little girl? Thanks in advance for your reply! God bless. — Tina of

    1. Hi Tina! Thanks for popping over, and I'm excited to discover a new blog in yours too! You can buy them at Hobbes and Landes branches or FUNdamentals in Fort (same folks). My little girl is five right now but these rods are useful even at two years old (use the 'ones' rods as counters), and so on, Hope this helps! This is actually my second post on the rods, I have more starting tips here:

  2. Hello, I found you on Montessori Monday and I have the same question as Tina, where did you get your math rods? I too do not have a love for math and I think that I have passed it on to one of my daughters. These look like it makes it so much more easier.

    1. Hi Natasha, let me give a high five because we are so.the.same in our (non)liking for math. You can order Cuisenaire Rods online from Amazon or from Also check my beginner post (because this particular one you commented on is the second follow-up):

      In that post, you'll see another helpful resource is for videos I watched to get started. I can testify that with these number rods, it's easier and more fun!


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