This post is an update to a post I wrote last year. I have found this version of the DIY rekenrek to be not only easier to make, but also more kid-friendly.

Rekenrek translates loosely to calculation rack or arithmetic rack, and it was designed by a Dutch mathematician. The rekenrek is a great visual model for developing a strong sense of 5 and 10, and it supports a strategy-based approach for learning calculations.

There are commercial rekenreks available, but they are a little beyond my budget. I’ve read several blog posts on how to make your own, so I decided to give it a try. What you’ll find below is a materials list, step-by-step instructions, and a link to a free, 44-page booklet on how to use the rekenrek.  Weekend project anyone? 🙂

Materials list:

  • 12 x 18 foam sheets.  These were $0.99 at Michaels or a 12-pack for $7.99.  Each sheet makes 9 rekenreks, so three sheets will make a class set of 27 rekenreks.
  • Red and white pony beads (6 mm x 9 mm).  I bought bags of 580 of both white and red.  Each rekenrek uses 10 beads of each color, so my two bags will make 58 rekenreks. Each bag was less than $5.00.
  • Black chenille stems (pipe cleaners).  A bag of 100 was $2.99 at Michaels.  Cut 2″ off the ends of the pipe cleaners.
Cut each foam sheet into nine 4″ x 6″ rectangles.  I used the lines on my paper cutter and a ruler to make 4 small marks where I was going to poke the pipe cleaners through.  The are 1″ in from the sides and 1″ apart.
I thought I would have to make holes with a hole punch, but I quickly realized I could easily poke a hole with the end of the pipe cleaner.  Poke the ends of the pipe cleaners through on one side and fold them down.
Thread 5 red beads on each pipe cleaner and then 5 white beads.  Poke the other ends of the pipe cleaners through to the back side.
Twist the ends of the pipe cleaners together.
The finished product!

The Math Learning Center, a nonprofit organization whose aim is to improve math education, has a great free, 44-page PDF booklet for introducing and using the rekenrek.  It includes 10 different activities, with blackline masters.  It’s a fabulous resource!

You might also want to check out these posts on DIY number bracelets and dot cards. I’ve also added a product to my TpT store with rekenrek flashcards and a couple of math workstation games.


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