Friday, January 10, 2014

I Came in like a Rekenrek

Hi Friends,

A very happy Friday to all! Today I'm featuring a super simple and affordable way to help students with their mathematical reasoning. It looks like a simplified abacus, but the tool is called a Rekenrek and it's a great way to help students think of numbers in groups (subitize) and quickly see patterns. Now that the new standards in math are placing more of an emphasis on conceptual understanding, manipulatives like the Rekenrek can really help to build a strong conceptual foundation of numbers for primary students.

I was first introduced to this tool at a Common Core Mathematics professional development in-service provided by my district. Being on such a limited budget, however, I was worried about how I could actually get my hands on a class set. Turns out these bad boys are extremely easy to make and can be a fun DIY project that can be completed in just one day. Here is my quick and easy tutorial on making your own set of Rekenreks. I can't wait to use them in the new year with my kiddos!

Step 1: Gather your materials. You will need 2 different colored beads, pipe cleaners, cardboard (or any other sturdy and durable surface), an X-acto blade, and scissors (not necessary but helpful if you want to trim the pipe cleaners or have difficulty pulling the pipe cleaners through). After finding the cardboard in my school's supply closet and having already had an X-acto blade in my apartment, the total for all the materials came out to about $9. I have 20 students making the total cost of this project $0.45 per student. I'm telling you, it doesn't have to be fancy or costly people!

Step 2: Create a slit. Using your X-acto blade cut an 'X' in the cardboard a couple inches in from the side of the board. This will allow for you to easily thread the pipe cleaner right through and provide a secure placement for it.

Step 3: Thread the pipe cleaner. Send one end of the pipe cleaner straight through the slit as pictured.

Step 4: Bead. Add 5 beads of one color and 5 more beads of another color.

Step 5: Finish a row. After beading the beads, push the red beads (or whatever color you have chosen) to the other side where you would like your row to end. I just eyeballed it and created another slit using my X-acto blade where I wanted the other end of the pipe cleaner to go through. Push the other end of the pipe cleaner through the slit to secure and push the second set of beads to the very end (see picture). Repeat these steps for the second row.

Step 6: Tie a knot. Using the excess pipe cleaner ends you will want to fasten the two ends of each row together. Simply twist the top and bottom pieces to create a knot. I left a little bit extra so I could slip the metal part of the cleaner under the knot.

Step 7: All done! That's it. Turn it around and you have a fully functional and inexpensive Rekenrek.

Step 8: Ask students questions like: How many ways are there to make ___?, Show me ____, etc. In the pictured example you can see I made 12. Students can easily see 12 can be made up of 2 groups of 5 and 2 more or one group of 10 and 2 more. I love it! :)

I hope you enjoyed today's hands-on post and as always thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!

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