Montessori Activity Review: Number Rods

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Montessori Activity Review: Number Rods

The Number Rods are a consistent favorite in our homeschool, which consists of Amelia, 7 years old, Mary Jo, 3 years old and Matthias 2 years old. These Montessori toys are beautiful and just beg to be handled and worked with.

More than that, they enable even a very young child to develop an understanding of a concept which would otherwise remain abstract and as such, difficult to grasp. The rods make the learning concrete. I have observed my eldest child easily developing comprehension and over time naturally leaving the concrete materials behind to work with the abstract alone.

The purpose of the Number Rods is to visualize the quantities 1-10: to learn to count and to associate the names with the quantities. There are ten rods varying in length from 10 centimeters to 1 meter. Each rod is divided into sections equal to the shortest rod. This not only enables the child to count the sections but means that the shortest rod can be used for control of error.

Montessori Activity: Number Rods

Counting with Number Rods

Last week as part of our homeschool we decided to spend some time all working together with the Montessori Number Rods. Having already had the pleasure of observing Amelia gain a lot from these Number Rods, I was keen to see if Mary Jo and Matthias would respond well to them, too. For Mary Jo this session would serve as a reinforcement of prior knowledge. For Matthias it was introductory, so he will work with these many more times before demonstrating his comprehension.

We began by collecting the number rod which matched our age. (Mom being the exception!) The girls found theirs and then helped Matthias to find his. We used this short introduction to involve Matthias in some preliminary counting. Each child counted the segments on their age rod out loud. Matthias was keen to take a closer look at the girls’ rods, seeing that theirs were bigger and perhaps seemed better in his mind.


Presenting the Number Rods

After a few minutes we moved on to the presentation. I demonstrated how to begin with the one rod and build steps up to the ten rod and asked first Mary Jo, then Matthias to copy what I had done.

When presenting the number rods, I used the Three Period Lesson: “This is”, “Show me”, and “What is”.) Placing the One-Rod in front of each child, in turn I named it, “This is the rod of one”. I then asked them to repeat its name. I lowered the Two-Rod in front of them and named it. “This is the rod of two.” Whilst touching it, I counted each section out loud and asked them in turn to count afterwards. I completed the presentation for all ten rods in the same manner.

For some time now, Mary Jo has been able to count much higher than 10, as these rods teach, yet in the past she struggled with building the step formation. However, this time she built the steps easily and named each rod as she went. I showed her how to use the One Rod as the control of error and she checked her own work. I was glad that her previous experience with these had not left her nervous about working with them again.

Next up, Matthias. Rather than work by himself, as Mary Jo had done, he worked with me and we slowly built the step formation again. He really enjoyed handling the rods and counting them until we found the correct one. Amelia offered to assist him in the final checking of his work. I was really pleased with the concentration that both Mary Jo and Matthias demonstrated in this work. Mary Jo showed real precision in lining up the rods and clearly she was comprehending the concept of quantity. I was not expecting Matthias to demonstrate any degree of comprehension today, yet observing his keen interest and desire to partake, I know for certain he will be motivated to use the Number Rods again. Materials such as these naturally motivate a child to learn. This in no way presents itself as work and yet I doubt a child could use these and not be learning something from them.

Montessori Materials: Number Rods

Montessori Number Rods: Not just for counting!

The Number Rods can be used to form a maze and I am yet to meet a child that does not get excited to build one and walk around it. I asked them all to spread the rods out again and told them I was going to form a maze. Starting with the One Rod, I slowly began to build to maze whilst they observed. Once it was complete I asked them if they would like to try it out. A loud ‘yes please’ followed and so one by one they got to walk the maze. It felt a bit like the three little pigs. Amelia was a tad too big, Matthias a bit too little as his baby feet were not quite steady enough to stay in the path. Mary Jo was ‘just right’: the right sized feet and a good stable posture. It was fun for them all and they kept going for a while making a game of it.

Once the maze was taken apart they naturally began to work with them individually. Mary Jo and Amelia both started to form their own initial and Matthias attempted to build with the rest. Another time the girls will no doubt make the maze for themselves. The maze is not only a favorite with all three of my children but with many visiting children too.

We all enjoyed working with the Number Rods and knowing the children were all learning whilst having so much fun added to my satisfaction. Although we used these as a group this time, for the most part I offer these rods as individual work in order to more closely assess each child’s stage and future needs. So no matter the number of children you have, the Number Rods will serve their educational development and add fun and color to their learning.

Montessori Toys: Number RodsMontessori Number Rods

You can purchase the original sized rods or you can buy a smaller tiled set of numerical rods which come with the numerals. Both teach the child to count to ten and visualize the quantities. However the larger rods will also provide a greater sensorial learning experience. Storing the larger rods can prove more difficult if you are short on space. I did not purchase the stand for them (which can be bought separately) and now wish I had. Being able to store them in a stand reduces space requirements and means you can keep them on display for your child to choose as an activity.

About Jo-Anne Landry

Trained in the Montessori method and philosophy, Jo enjoys sharing her passion for education through her work as a freelance writer. Check out her new website combining this passion with her creative side.

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