Monday 2 May 2011


Montessori Activity: The Number Rods Made with LEGO Bricks

Age: From 2.5 years old (Level 3)

Activity Duration: 5 - 15 minutes

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

1. To introduce the concept of length.
2. To teach what the quantity of each numeral means.
3. To indirectly prepare the child for later work in geometry through the general observation of the geometrically regular differences in the rod's length, faces and total volumes.
4. To indirectly prepare the child for the concept of numbers by demonstrating the unit difference in length between the 10 successively longer rods.
5. To teach counting and addition.

1. 30 red and 25 blue Duplo Lego bricks (3x3x2cm each)
2. A tray or a floor mat.


Method 1:
1. Put the first two number rods onto the tray.

2. Take rod one and put it infront of your child. Point to it and say, "This is one." Repeat with rod two.

3. Ask your child to repeat the numeral as you say it. Repeat it twice more, using both rods.

4. Put both rods in front of your child and ask, "Can you point to one?" Repeat with two.

5. Move the rods around, but say, "Show me one."

6. Repeat for the third time, but say "Which is one?"

7. Place both rods in front of your child, and point on the one. Then ask, "What is this?" He should reply, "One." Now put your finger on the two, and ask, "What is this?". He should reply, "Two."

8. Encourage your child to count both rods, and say, "One, two."

9. Repeat the rods and repeat the same steps twice more.

1. Teach the quantities up to 10 using the number rods. Go slow, First introduce 1 and 2. Then 3, 4 and 5. Then 6, 7 and 8. Finally 9 and 10. Each time, review the numerals from the previous session.

2. As your child begins to recognize number quantities, introduce counting. Ask, "Which set has the largest number of bricks?", "Which set has the smallest number of bricks?" and "Which two sets have a number of bricks equal to another?"

Method 2:
1. Arrange the rods in a random order on a tray/floor mat, so that your child can see them clearly.

2. Put the rods horizontally to the right of you and ask your child to sit on your left.

3. Tell your child that you are going to build the rods into a staircase starting with the shortest. select the shortest rod and put it in front of you. When you are selecting your rod, run your right hand along to the end so that your child will see that you are finding the next length.

4. Build up the rest of the staircase, finishing with the longest rod. Take the opportunity to introduce the mathematical language of long and short.

5. Tell your child that you are going to dismantle the staircase so that he can build it.

6. Take the rods one at a time and place them to the right of your child in a random order.

7. Invite your child to build the staircase.

Video Demonstration:

1. You can discuss the same concept by showing photos of family members and their varying heights.

2. You can get everyone to line up in a row from the tallest to shortest as well.

3. When your child is familiar with this game, you can ask him to place the "one" number rod at the end of the "two" rod, so that they create a new rod that is the same length as the "three" rod just above. He can explore similar relationship with all the numbers from one to ten.

4. You can also place a number flash card (or what is called the number tablet in Montessori) next to the corresponding number rod. You can make this number tablet on your own using card board. I am already thinking of making 4 sets - one with numbers, one in English, one in Danish and one in Chinese, hopefully in a post in the near future.

How to Make Number Rods with Lego?
1. The first "rod" is simply one red brick.
2. To make the second "rod" all the way to the last and 10th "rod", always start with a red brick first and put a blue brick on top of the red brick.

Cost of the real stuff: 49 USD from, since I made it with the Lego bricks I have already have at home, it costs me nothing.

Additional Information:
It is very expensive to buy Montessori materials and they are not easily available. That means that one needs to order it over the internet and pay a very high shipping cost. For this, I thought of using the lego bricks (but someone else thought of the same idea too!), since we have a lot of them at home. If you want to reduce the cost further, you can also use a cheaper brand of bricks such as Mega Blocks. You can also use cardboard, although I prefer to use lego bricks, because they provide a 3-dimensional understanding. However, if you want to buy the original Montessori number rods, you can buy on-line from, a Malaysian company which has a value-for-money price with good quality compared to many other Montessori material companies.

According to the book "Raising An Amazing Child" by Tim Seldin, "grasping the concepts of numbers by counting objects is more difficult at first. While young children can learn to "count" by rote, reciting the sequence of numbers from one to 10, most cannot easily grasp the difference between one quantity and another when looking at more than three or four objects. It's almost as if they are thinking: "One, two, three... many!" One way to avoid this is by allowing children to visualize the concepts of numbers and quantity by using a series of segmented rods, rather than trying to teach them to count sets of separate objects. In Montessori," this is done by using the number rods.

This is one of my favourite books providing hands-on guide on Montessori activities that is practical, simple, easy to follow and fun to read. The book also provides lots of ideas on using simple equipment that you can find at home. I found this idea in this book. You can find them in Amazon:

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