Cuisenaire Rods

Children often have trouble understanding abstract concepts.  Its no wonder then that math is often a dreaded subject because abstract concepts knowledge is essential to mathematics.

A growing popular way to help kids understand abstract concepts is with the use of manipulatives. Manipulatives help to represent the abstract concepts that kids are trying to learn in mathematics in a concrete fashion. These manipulatives are useful to all ages, though it has been my experience it’s better to introduce them early.


One type of manipulative are the Cuisenaire Rods, also referred to as math bars, which are colored number rods used to teach mathematical concepts in an interactive, hands on manner. Used mostly in Montessori schools, home-schooled children will find this tool useful to help them understand important math concepts from concrete to abstract thinking.


Cuisenaire Rods provide a way to introduce and reinforce math topics, including:









The rods come in different colors and each color represents a different length. The lengths by color are:


-White 1 cm

-Red 2 cm

-Light green 3 cm

-Lavender 4 cm

-Yellow 5 cm

-Dark green 6 cm

-Black 7 cm

-Brown 8 cm

-Blue 9 cm

-Orange  10 cm


Nowadays, you do not have to get the actual rods as they are available “virtually”. Virtual versions of manipulatives for mathematics education, such as Cuisenaire Rods, are available at no cost online. If these virtual manipulatives are paired with structured activities and lesson plans, they can be just as effective as the concrete manipulatives.


For helpful tips and ideas for using this great tool, visit Math Playground.

Article By Nuria Almeida

Picture By Rev Dan Catt

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