Week 4 | Comparing Cuisenaire Rod Staircases - Play Discover Learn 24/7

Week 4 | Comparing Cuisenaire Rod Staircases

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Lesson Objective:

Children build two complete Cuisenaire rod staircases and play the substitute game learning the many ways to building numbers. 


  • Small Group Set of Cuisenaire Rods
  • "The Three Cabritos" By Eric A. Kimmel
  • Free Activity page below
  • An imagination

Lesson Plan

Read, "The Three Cabritos" By Eric A. Kimmel.  

While this is a fun rendition of "The Three Billy Goats Gruff," I chose this book because the bridge is the focal point that must be conquered. 

During the reading of the story, build a bridge.  The bridge is two mirrored staircases upside down.  If you have a story felt board, you can prepare jumbo size felt rods to place onto the story felt board or you can also use Jumbo Cuisenaire Rods to place on the floor flat before the children.   I actually prefer the magnet Cuisenaire rods and a medium size white board. 

As you read each page, add a rod to the bridge until it is complete.

Story Discussion

Throughout the story, pause and ask the children what they think you are building.  Making predictions is part of honing those pattern finding skills that all children have.  


Once the story is over, have the children return to their Cuisenaire rods and ask them to build their own bridge just like yours.

Tell the student that the Chupacabra has eaten all the orange rods and the three Cabritos need their help to fix the missing steps to get across.   The steps must be the same length as the orange rod. 

This is a fun introduction to a cornerstone game called the substitute game.  The children have a constraint that it must be the same length as the orange rod, but the children have the freedom to create their own solution within the constraint.   

You may find the children asking for this game all week.  It really is fun when the Chupacabra eats up different color rods in the bridge.   There is joy in finding all the different ways to replace a rod.   

Math Journaling

Offer students the opportunity to draw their bridge on the free activity page below. Encourage them to include elements of the story. You may want to offer to read the story again while they are drawing.