A Sense of Number

Some Printable Cuisenaire Rods


When I was in kindergarten, my mom gave me a great toy to help me develop a sense of number. This page tells you how to make one yourself, so that your kids too can develop a strong sense of number from an early age.

My mom gave me a set of wooden bricks that helped teach me a sense of number

The one my mom gave me was a set of wooden blocks. Each block was 1 unit wide, and 1 unit high, but they were all different lengths. And that's where the fun - and learning - begins!

Why not take the time to download a printable version of these blocks? The download has two sets of tiles. Print (in color) as many copies as you want, preferably onto cardboard, then cut them out (maybe you want to laminate them as well).

When using these cards (unfortunately, it's hard to download blocks of wood!) its best to guide the kids' play at the start. I give some ideas for possible games below.

  • You could place a card on the floor (or table). Then ask the child to find and line up two other cards, so that his or her two would have the same length as your one. For example, you might place a card of length five on the table. After some encouragement an experimenting, the child will find that h or she can match that length with a card of length two, and another of length three. By doing this, he or she will learn that two and three make five. And for a kid in kindergarten, this kind of challenge is fun!
  • You could tell the kid to place three cards of length two end-to-end. Then, ask him or her to find a card the same length. Eventually, he or she will realize that the card of length six was the one that matches, and so learn that three times two makes six.
  • Other games would teach that three times two is the same as two times three, or that two plus seven makes seven plus two. Abstract commutativity laws that high-schoolers sometimes struggle with, should become intuitive to the child by the age of six or seven. They did for me. I still find it amazing. And all because of a simple toy and some loving guidance.

Anyway, I hope your kids enjoy this game as much as I did - and learn as much too! In case you find this set less than beautiful, I've provided another set with only one printed number per tile, and another still with no printed numbers at all. I'm sure these games, with a little guidance from you, will build in your kids a strong sense of number, just like it did it me.

My mom gave me other games too. On another page on this site, you'll find one that teaches shape, size and color. Enjoy!