Week 5 | Building Cuisenaire Rod Complements - Play Discover Learn 24/7

Week 5 | Building Cuisenaire Rod Complements

Lesson Objective:

Children are introduced to Cuisenaire Rod complements to give students a strong foundation in math structure of addition and subtraction. 


  • Small Group Set of Cuisenaire Rods
  • "The Missing Chick" By Valeri Gorbachev
  • Free Activity Page Below
  • An imagination

Lesson Plan

Begin with free play for 10-15 minutes. Ask the students about what they are creating and engage with their discoveries.

A Picture Book Math Activity

Break for story time and read, ​"The Missing Chick" By Valerie Gorbachev.  This fun book pairs well with Missing Chicks Play mats in PDL's  Math Task Cards and Play Mats for Module 1.

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. 

As you read each page, add a rod to create a complete staircase.  You may want to create chicks to place on top of the staircase to be rescued.  At the end of the story, offer students an opportunity to find the missing rods that will rescue the chicks.  To read more about this Complement exercise, go HERE

Story Discussion

After the lesson, ask the students what did they notice?

  • How many rods did you need to rescue the chicks?
  • What did you notice about the size of each rod?
  • What was your favorite part of the story?


Hands On Math activity for learning math facts and structures.  A fun picture book activity too.

Once the discussion is over, have the students recreate their own rescue story or use the Complement play mats from PDL's Math Task Cards and Play Mats for Module 1.

Have the students compare Complement staircases?  Which play mat needed more rods?  Which play mat had the tallest rods? 

Math Journaling

Offer students the opportunity to draw their staircase complements 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.