Week 6 | Building Cuisenaire Rod Mats - Play Discover Learn 24/7

Week 6 | Building Cuisenaire Rod Mats


Students learn the Cuisenaire Rod mat structure that prepares students to exhaustively explore the decomposition and composition of numbers.


  • Small Group Set of Cuisenaire Rods
  • “The Perfect Square” By Michael Hall

  • Free  The Perfect Square Mat Journal


Read “The Perfect Square” By Michael Hall

After reading the story, ask the students,

 What is a square?  Do you think squares are boring?  What did you think about the square changing? Another word for change is transformation.  What was your favorite square  transformation?

Now say,

  Today, we are going to build a square with Cuisenaire rods.    Then we are going to transform it with our imagination just like in the story.

Class Activity

First, build an orange square reminding a student what makes it a square.  Show the definition of the square using the orange rod to measure both the length and the width of the square.   Now just orange rods are going to make for a boring transformation.   But have a student try to make something anyway.   

Ask the students if a variety of color rods will make for a more interesting transformation.   Return the orange rods to a square and play the substitution game to create a variety of color rods.   Work through one rod at a time.  An orange rod may be replaced with a red, a light green, a purple and a white.   Another orange can be replaced with a black and light green.

If class time is constrained, consider using a yellow square instead.

Math Journal Activity

Offer students the opportunity to repeat this activity with a building mats journal below.  

More activities exploring mats are found in Math Task cards and play Mats Module 1.5. Also check out Number Building Play Mats for more mats and worksheets (coming soon).