Montessori Red Rods

Number Rods are one of the first lessons a preschool child learns in the mathematics area of a Montessori classroom. It teaches more than numbers and counting.

The purpose of the Number Rods is for a child to experience the qualities of each number and to learn their respective names, to show that each number is represented by a single object, as a whole, separate from others. And lastly, to help memorize the sequence of numbers from 1 to 10.

The lesson is presented by the directress (Montessori teacher) in a specific manner that is easily understandable by the child.

– Ten rods identical with the Red Rods in length, but divided into red and blue sections. The shortest rod is red. The second is twice the size of the first; one half is painted red and the other half is blue. The third rd is three times the size of the first and is divided into three sections; the first painted red, the second is blue, and the third red. All the other rods are divided in a similar fashion, alternating red and blue, the first section always being red. The number of sections represent the numbers of the rod.
– A floor mat

– Carry and assemble the rod as you would with the Red Rods.
– Do the Three Period Lesson to teach the names, be sure to count the red rods each time.
– Continue through the activities as the child is ready. You must be sure the child understands the quantities before moving on from the naming.
– Some children will be able to do this work in one sitting.
– Be sure to review previous names before moving on to new ones.
– Continue through the series on consecutive days.


Stage A: Naming and Counting

Invite the child to come and work with you. Bring the child over to the Red Rods and discuss with the child how he knows how to use them.
Tell the child that we have other set of rods that are almost like the Red Rods.
Show the child the Number Rods and tell the child that they are almost like the Red Rods except for they are red and blue.
Have the child bring over two mats. Unroll one horizontally and the other vertically. (See diagram)
unroll one mat horizontally

unroll the other mat vertically
Have the child bring over each number rod and place them randomly onto the vertical mat.
Sit in front of the horizontal mat.
Ask the child to build the rods as he would with the Red Rods on the horizontal mat.
rods on the horizontal mat

Point out that we will always start with the red section to the left.
Isolate the first three rods.
Point to rod 1. Say, “This is one.” Count.
Point to the blue on rod 2. Say, “This is two.” Then count.
Point to the red on rid 3. Say “This is three.” Then count.
Repeat this a few times. (This is the 1st Period of the Three Period Lesson.)
Move the rods so they are on the same horizontal line. Do the 2nd Period of the Three Period Lesson.
Do the 3rd Period of the Three Period Lesson.
Ask the child to replace the three rods back with the others.
Take out rods 4, 5, and 6.
Count each section of rod 4
Repeat as you did with the first three rods.
Repeat for rod 7, 8, and 9.
Then repeat with rods 8, 9, and 10.
Depending on the child, this may be taught over a few days.
Stage B: Identification by Name

The Number Rods are in random order on the mat.
The directress sits between the two mats and has the child sit in front of the vertical mat.
The directress asks for a specific number rod, the child chooses it, counts it, and places it on the empty mat.
Stage C: Random Identification by Quantity

The rods are lain out randomly on a mat.
The directress randomly takes a Number Rod, places it in front of the child and asks, “What is this?”
The child counts it, and gives you what Number Rod it is.
Then have the child place it on the empty mat.
Repeat for all of the rods.
Stage D: Identify Rod Randomly

The rods are lain out randomly on a mat.
The child chooses a rod, isolates it on the empty mat and tell the directress what number it is.
Then the child counts to verify.
Repeat for all of the rods.
Stage E: Identify Rod in Order

The rods are in the stair formation.
Point to one rod in the stair formation and have the child say the number of the rod.
Then have the child count it to verify.
Repeat for each rod.

Control of Error
The number of partitions on each rod acts as a guide.

4 years onwards (after the child is competent with the red rods)

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