One thing we love is the rekenrek. There are many tools that can be used at home and in classrooms to reinforce number sense and subitizing skills, and the rekenrek is one of our favorites. This “arithmetic rack” features two rows of 10 beads, with each row broken into two sets of five, usually in red and white colors. It is a simple tool that can be quite powerful. To encourage teachers and other adults to use them, it’s important to not only go over ways to use a rekenrek (links below), but also we thought we would make sure everyone has opportunities to have them, whatever the budget. So let’s make some DIY rekenreks!
Small DIY Rekenrek Ideas for Home and Classrooms
Here are two common, easy-to-use and cheap ways to create your own rekenreks. They are great for home use, or maybe you want a budget-friendly way to make ones for an entire classroom of kids.
- Acquire (a) colored heavy or card-stock paper, (b) black pipe cleaners, and (c) red and white beads. Punch holes at each end of the heavy paper and pull the pipe cleaners through, and then string the beads, 5 reds and 5 whites together. You may want to start with just a single row for younger children, concentrating on different ways of working with 10 beads. When children are ready, begin to use two rows of beads. Make sure you create rows that are wide enough to leave a large space between the beads on the left and the beds remaining on the right, apart from the set to be counted. Another tip: draw a smiley face to direct children where to look to find the set of beads to be counted (see photo examples below).
- Here is a variation of the same DIY rekenreks we found some teachers making. Teachers or craftsy people often have use for these plastic mesh canvas sheets. So make a rekenrek out of one! You might find them more durable and easier to manage than card-stock paper with holes in them.
Rekenrek Attendance Activity for School
Smaller, individual rekenreks are great for children to be hands-on, but you may want something larger for demonstrating to the entire class. Use common materials and these guidelines to create a rekenrek chart with the same mathematical structure as the ones with beads. For more detailed instructions, click the download button below.
- Purchase a) a large poster board, b) library pockets, and c) popsicle sticks or something else to represent the children. Create rows of ten using 5 red and 5 white pockets. Depending on your class size you may want to use two, three, or four rows. Be sure that there are more pockets than children so that there’s room for grouping and rearranging quantities.
- Here is a variation of the same DIY rekenrek chart, only using a laminated board and velcro. Something like this might better survive the rigors of classroom life, and switching out laminated representations of the children means that they can be seasonal or can represent the children in different and unique ways.
Use the rekenrek chart to collect attendance data. Using this tool daily (see a demonstration here) provides repeated opportunities for children to build number relationships. The rekenrek helps them see small quantities inside larger numbers and learn about the 5- and 10-structure of our number system.
Another idea to try with the rekenrek chart is classroom voting. See an example of a class using the rekenrek chart to organize votes to determine which book to read at story time (below). If you want to purchase rekenreks like shown in the images, check out Math Rack.
Foldable Rekenrek Chart Instructions
This download includes a template for making a foldable chart that can be made from poster board and other easily-found craft items.
Rekenrek Chart for Voting in the Classroom
Looking for new rekenrek activity ideas? Try voting with a rekenrek chart. In this video, we see a rekenrek chart used to solve a dilemma common to early childhood classrooms: choosing between two favorite books at story time.
How to Use a Rekenrek
New to using rekenreks? Its deceivingly simple design — two rows of ten beads, five red and five white — leaves some wondering how to use it. Here is a detailed video demonstrating how to use one with children.