Sunday, April 22, 2012

Magnificent Math Tool - Rekenrek

Student using Rekenrek to answer a
3 number addition problem
The Rekenreck, also called a Math Rack or Counting Frame, is a wonderful math manipulative tool that I have been using for three years.  My students love it and it is the tool they use the most for just about every kind of math.  Most recently, we used them to aide us in adding 3 numbers and in finding missing numbers in an equation: missing addend and missing subtrahend / minuend problems.  We have used them throughout the year for all types of addition and subtraction and counting.  The best things about the Rekenrek tool are:

  • It is coded for easy recognition of working in the base 10 system.  The beads are color coded in groups of 5 which enable students to see numbers quickly.  Each row contains 10 beads which also lends to quick number identification and manipulation. 
  • It is kinesthetic and visual.  Students physically manipulate the beads and see the numbers.  This is an added help that is not given to students when using a number line. 
  • It is available in three sizes: a single 10 row for preK-K students or for students who may need extra support, a double row containing 20 beads for K-2 students easily facilitates working with all problems within sums/differences within 20, and the final option is a ten row board containing 100 beads for use with all students allows many options for number work.  
There is information available on how to use and instruct with the Rekenrek all over the internet.  I really like this PDF book available online that gives step by step lessons you can teach your students to introduce them to the tool.  

Another resource includes the book Number Sense Routines: Building Numerical Literacy Every Day in Grades K-3  in which Chapter 3, Visual Routines, includes several pages about the Rekenreck.  Author Jessica Shumway also includes questions to ask to get students thinking about the tool and ideas for problems and numbers to try.  One of her ideas also includes reading books by Greg Tang (read one of the problems a day) and working them with the Rekenrek.

If you already teach using ten frames or dot cards, the Rekenrek is a perfect companion and extends the same concepts kinestheticly.

There are also virtual versions of the Rekenrek and an App.
Here's the link to an online version.  
Here's the link to the free app. 

Commercial Rekenreks can be very costly.  Of course, I have a solution for you! The Dilly Dabble Rekenreks are made to be of quality between the major commercially available Rekenreks and the personally made ones.  They are durable enough to last through several years of classroom use and much more affordable than the metal or wood ones available.  You can see pricing and details at the Dilly Dabbles Store here.


Of course, this post wouldn't be complete without some Freebies!  Here's a link to a recording page on which students can record ways they make numbers or solve problems using the Rekenrek and prompts you can use when working generally with the Rekenrek.

Would you be interested in Counting Frame flash cards or problem cards?  I'd love to hear your requests in the comments below.  Also, please share if you've used this tool before and how.


  1. I own Jessica's book and have been very interested in using Rekenreks. Thanks for sharing some additional resources.
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

  2. I would love some problems and other resources for rekenreks.

    1. Thank you for the input. I wanted to get an idea of whether the need was there before I created them.

  3. Melissa,
    This is exactly what is on my list to make. I finished the book Number Talks last week.
    :) Tamera

  4. Thanks so much for the link to the pdf book. I began using rekenreks this school year and I have seen amazing growth within my students!

  5. You mentioned that "One of her ideas also includes reading books by Greg Tang (read one of the problems a day) and working them with the Rekenrek."

    Have you used this before? Do you have any specific suggestions on which of the reading books are good?

    1. Jess, I have many of Greg Tang's books and love them all. In fact my fifth graders are using them in a literacy center right now and writing their own math riddles. Any of his simpler addition and subtraction books would likely work well with the Rekenreks, but I haven't personally used them as mentioned in the resource above.


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