Learning Algebra with Cuisenaire Rods

We used Cusienaire Rods as a light introduction to algebra.

When kids begin algebra, often times representing numbers with letters is too abstract a concept to grasp. I did this activity with my 5th grade son and my 1st grade daughter at the same time. Although my son went on to slightly more difficult problems, my daughter was able to comprehend the basic idea of representing a number with a letter.

Before beginning this activity, at a minimum, kids should understand addition families with Cuisenaire Rods.

In this example, the kids began with an 8 cm brown rod and a 5 cm yellow rod. The problem was written: 5 + x = 8

They had to select the missing rod which when placed next to the yellow rod, would equal the length of the brown rod. The 3 cm green rod was correct. The next step was to write: x = 3

After a few similar examples, the kids were able to construct and write out their own problems.

Next, we tried a slightly more difficult problem.

In this example, the problem was written: 3x + 3 = 9

Therefore, 3 rods of equal length needed to be selected, such that the length of the 3 rods, and the 3 cm green rod would equal 9 cm.

Three 2 cm red rods was the correct answer, and the final step was to write x = 2.

To see more ways we have used Cusienaire Rods please visit our Math Page.


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