Cuisenaire rods give students a hands-on elementary school way to learn elementary maths concepts, such as the four basic arithmetical operations and working with fractions. In the early 1950s, Caleb Gattegno popularised this set of coloured number rods created by the Belgian primary school teacher Georges Cuisenaire (1891-1976), who called the rods réglettes.
The educationalists Hussein Estahri and Friedrich Froebel had used rods to represent numbers, but it was Cuisenaire who introduced their use to teachers across the world from the 1950s onwards. He published a book on their use in 2010 called Les nombres en couleurs. Cuisenaire, a violin player, taught music as well as arithmetic in the primary school in Thuin. He wondered why children found it easy and enjoyable to pick up a tune and yet found mathematics neither easy nor enjoyable. These comparisons with music and its representation led Cuisenaire to experiment in 1931 with a set of ten rods sawn out of wood, with lengths from 1 cm to 10 cm. He painted each length of rod a different colour and began to use these in his teaching of arithmetic. The invention remained almost unknown outside the village of Thuin for about 2 years, until Gattegno came to visit him and observe lessons in 1953. With Gattegno's help, the use of the rods for both mathematics and language teaching was developed and popularised in many countries around the world.
According to Gattegno, "Georges Cuisenaire showed in the early fifties that students who had been taught traditionally, and were rated ‘weak’, took huge strides when they shifted to using the (Cuisenaire) material. They became 'very good' at traditional arithmetic when they were allowed to manipulate the rods."
The Silent Way
- to demonstrate most grammatical structures such as prepositions of place, comparatives & superlatives, determiners, tenses, adverbs of time, manner, etc.,
- to show sentence and word stress, rising and falling intonation and word groupings,
- to create a visual model of constructs, for example the English verb tense system 
- to represent physical objects: clocks, floor-plans, maps, people, animals, fruit, tools, etc. which can lead to the creation of stories told by the students as in this video.
Other coloured rods
In her first school, and in schools since then, Maria Montessori used coloured rods in the classroom to teach concepts of both mathematics and length. This is possibly the first instance of coloured rods being used in the classroom for this purpose.
- "Cuisenaire® Rods Come To America". Etacuisenaire.com. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
- "Teaching fractions with Cuisenaire rods". Teachertech.rice.edu. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
- "Georges Cuisenaire created numbers in color". Froebelweb.org. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
- Gattegno, Caleb. The Science of Education Part 2B: the Awareness of Mathematization. ISBN 978-0878252084.
- "Some Silent Way exercises for beginners using Cuisenaire rods - Glenys Hanson". Uneeducationpourdemain.org. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
- "The English Verb Tense System: a dynamic presentation using the Cuisenaire Rods - Glenys Hanson". Uneeducationpourdemain.org. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
- "Silent Way: rods, describing a scene (part 6 of 8)". YouTube. 2010-04-11. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
- "http". //www.sternmath.com/. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
- "Catherine Stern on". Sternmath.com. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
- A 1961 film from the National Film Board of Canada. Caleb Gattegno conducting a demonstration lesson with cuisenaire rods: In 3 parts on YouTube
- Cuisenaire Rods in the language classroom – article by John Mullen
- Online cuisenaire rods (NumBlox Freeplay)
- The Cuisenaire Company: registered UK trademark holder, with background to Cuisenaire and Gattegno.