Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Yay for Cuisenaire Rods

I sent a version of this to the Miquon e-mail list this morning, and I thought it could go on the blog as well.

People often want to know how to use Cuisenaire rods, and the main thing they think of is putting them together to add. If their kids don't want or need to use them that way, the rods get discarded. But there are many other reasons and ways to use them! Today's math lesson with Crayons illustrated that for me.

First of all, I didn't think I'd actually be using the Orange book (the first Miquon workbook) with her this year; I had planned on waiting until first grade. However, she's an eager beaver and somehow or other I got bamboozled into letting her do a lot of the Orange pages.

A couple of days ago I decided to try--just out of interest--seeing if she could grasp the "2 3's" multiplication idea that is introduced in the Orange book. I showed her that we can write a "thing that looks like a letter X" in between the numbers and so "2 x 3" is read as "2 3's."

(Now, those of you who don't have Miquon workbooks handy, be patient--I'll try and describe as clearly as I can what went on here.)

Yesterday I had her do just the left-hand column of page F-4--several examples of repeated addition. 8 + 8, 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3, and so on. She used a pile of white rods (one cm long each, so they usually represent 1) and made groups of threes (or whatever), then counted them up to find the answer. (On this page, it's not required that you actually find these sums; I just had her do it for some adding/counting practice.)

Today I had her do the right-hand column, which is to match multiplication expressions (2 x 8, 5 x 3) with the addition expressions from yesterday. I just had her say the left-hand column out loud (how many 8's do you see? 2 8's) and then find the matching expression on the right.

THEN--for the next page, F-5, which is very similar, a column of multiplication to be matched up with repeated addition expressions--we had a bit more fun. First I took the right sets of rods for each expression (4 5's (4 yellow 5cm rods), 3 2's (3 red 2cm rods) etc.) and put all the sets on the floor underneath the book. She had to read 4 x 5 ("Four fives") and then point to the right group (she thought that was really easy).

And then this was the neat part, because Crayons kind of made it her own. (If I had said, "Gee, I have a funny idea--let's clap for the rods," it would have seemed strange.) I started having her read the right-hand column (on this page it's the reverse of the other one--the right-hand column has the repeated addition). She said, "2 + 2 + 2. 3 2's." Then she moved the set of three red rods up ahead of the rest, as if they were getting a prize at the front of the class. We both had to clap for the 3 2's. (And she drew the lines to connect them on the page.) Then the 4 5's came up to the front and we clapped. There was a bit of confusion when the 6's weren't sure whether it was the 2 6's turn to go up or the 6 6's, but they eventually straightened themselves out. The 6 6's also turned out to be terrible show-offs (they came up humming "We are the Champions"), and they boasted that they had "more wood" than any of the other sets. So at the very end (not really part of the page), we had every "team" line themselves up against each other to see which came out the longest--and sure enough, the 6 6's did come out way ahead of the others. It was also noted that the 3 7's lined up together were just a bit longer than the 4 5's.

And there was more applause for all the "teams," and the math lesson was over.

Only with a five-year-old...

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