How to make your own rekenreks

Have you discovered rekenreks for your early mathematicians? If you haven’t, they are well worth looking into.

A rekenrek is a beautifully simple counting frame that helps children build their number sense, visualise the relationship between numbers and develop strategies for addition and subtraction. It contains 2 parallel bars or strings with 10 beads strung on each bar – the first 5 beads are usually red and the second 5 white. This system is so versatile and can be applied to many areas of maths. I find that the combination of the physical manipulative and the visual model is particularly powerful.

So in the summer holidays, I set about making some rekenreks of my own. I’m not gifted at or well-equipped for DIY but even I managed to get on with these. I was quite proud of how they turned out!

I bought some pre-cut balsa wood sheets – like this (20cm x 10cm) – and marked up two 14cm lines in the centre.

I borrowed my Dad’s drill and drilled four holes in the board (I don’t have a fancy workbench – I used a flowerpot to brace the wood!) If you’re making these, please be exceptionally careful, it is your responsibility to work safely.

Once the 4 holes were drilled on the master sheet, I used it as a template to quickly mark up where to drill the other sheets.

My daughter’s bucket turned out to be a more rigid brace for drilling the rest of the holes! 😉

Next, I cut two pieces of elastic, slightly longer than the length of the board.

I threaded on some pony beads like these (6 x 8mm), 5 of each colour top and bottom, and tied the elastic tightly at the back.

Then I had my rekenreks!

I made 15 rekenreks in one morning, enough for one between two in class or for small group work, and it was a fraction of the cost of buying them from an educational resources organisation. I think I’ll make another 15 so that I can use them on the carpet with the whole class as they are my new favourite manipulative!

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