(Total change of subject from my evangelism series, I know. All the blogging gurus tell you to focus on one central idea, but I just have too many interests. Sorry! Maybe a few of you will find this interesting? For the record, I’m planning to return to that series yet with a few more posts. Just taking a little detour.)
I came across number rods in some of my Montessori reading a few months back, around Lydia’s second birthday. They seemed like a great tool to help enhance her understanding of counting and numbers. I was really eager to make some for Lydia, and pestered Ben mercilessly to help me gather the materials and assemble them. I finally introduced them to Lydia with great enthusiasm.
She didn’t get it and was totally uninterested. I sighed and put them away for six months.
I recently re-introduced them to her, and to my delight, she takes great interest in lining them up and counting them, and will do so on her own initiative.
I really do think they enhance her understanding of quantity and numbers, and thought I’d share our experience.
Making Number Rods
Number rods are a set of ten lengths of wood that vary in size incrementally. They alternate between two colours (traditionally red and blue), and when you line them up in order, they create a “stair” effect.
My number rods are not perfect by Montessori standards, but they follow the same basic principles.
To make the number rods, I just had Ben cut ten lengths of solid oak, from one to ten inches long. (Each square is one inch tall. So our first rod is one inch long; our second one is two inches long, etc.) (Hint: You could probably use paint stirring sticks for this material).
I used two colours of paint that we happened to have left over from past projects (lime and grey). I marked them off into one-inch segments, used masking tape to create clean(ish) lines, and painted the segments one colour at a time (first the lime, then the grey).
I chose to add the numerals at the bottom of one side. They can be flipped so that the numerals don’t show if you prefer to use them that way.
Using the Number Rods
This tool is great, in my opinion, because it gives the child a sensorial impression of quantity. In other words, Lydia can see what each quantity looks like. She can see that when you go up in numerals, you get a greater quantity, which means a greater length. And she can see which numeral goes with each quantity, giving her greater familiarity with the numerals and what they mean.
For now, we’re just using them to understand length, quantity and and counting. Later, you can use them to learn more complex math skills.
When I first (re-)introduced them to her (at thirty months, or two-and-a-half), I simply laid them out randomly, and then told her I was going to line them up from shortest to longest.
I started with one and two, and then asked her which was the next longest. She quickly caught on and lined the rest up in order from shortest to longest.
I then went through and counted them from one to ten, and invited her to join me.
I keep them in a Ziploc bag in her activity dresser (I know: NOT Montessori), and to my delight, she will often get them out herself and start lining them up, shortest to longest, completely independently.
Then she will go through and count them out loud, putting her finger on each one.
Have you used number rods? Any other great ideas or tools for introducing math basics to young children?