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

Week 4 | Exploring Cuisenaire Rod Staircases

Lesson Objective:

Children are introduced to ordinal numbers (first, second, third and so on) and begin to play with Cuisenaire Rod staircases. 


  • Small Group Set of Cuisenaire Rods
  • "On the Stairs" By Julie Hofstrand Larios
  • Free Activity Page Below
  • An imagination

Lesson Plan

Break for story time and read, "On the Stairs" By Julie Hofstrand Larios.   This beautiful rhyming book is great for introducing ordinal numbers and building staircases with Cuisenaire rods.  

The story has a fun rhyme dedicated to each stair name, the ordinal number.  With the first step, pull out a white rod and place it on the table.  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.    My personal favorite is magnetic Cuisenaire Rods as you see in the video below.

Story Discussion

Making predictions is a great way to connect with student thinking.

As you read about each ordinal step, add the next increasing rod, red, light green, purple, yellow and so on.  Stop when you get to the eleventh step, and ask the children which rod should go next.  

This is a fun opportunity to see the children's thinking.  See where their thinking leads.  Did they conclude the next stair should be higher?  How high?  Which rods?  

If someone does conclude it should be an orange and a white as the eleventh stair, that is great.  If not, do not give them the answer nor feel obligated to build the eleventh stair. Finish the story without adding to the staircase.


Once the story is over, have the children return to their Cuisenaire rods and ask them to build their own staircase.  Staircases can come in many shapes and size.  

In the story, a full ten step staircase is built going up.   But in play, children can build a 3 step staircase, a 8 step staircase or a 20 step staircase.  They can build staircases going up, going down or both.  

Throughout building of staircases, have children describe their staircase to you.  Only after describing in their own limited language, do you then offer clear describing words like ordinal words. 

Math Journaling

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