How to Make a Rekenrek {tutorial}


When I began teaching with new math materials, like ten frames, my goal was to improve the number sense of my students. Here is a six step tutorial on how I created another math material to use with my students in small groups.

This math material is called a math bead rack or a rekenrek. I’m not savvy at using this yet, but I plan on utilizing it more this school year.

Why a math material like a rekenrek?

Well, to be honest I picked up a book on this tool and didn’t see the value enough to figure out how to use it. Then last year, we were able to pilot Dreambox {thanks to my facebook reader suggestions} as a math program for our students who are accelerated in math.

Side note: I do think it was a fantastic tool and would love it for my entire class, but alas the funding does not exist.

Anyway, I realized that many of the games and activities were relying on the use of the rekenrek to practice composing/decomposing numbers and problem solving (even large numbers to 100).

After seeing many valuable applications I was excited to bring out my home made versions from the closet.

How to make a math material bead rack (Rekenrek)

how to make a math material bead rack {tutorial} - KindergartenWorks

Begin by choosing materials that will hold up to lots of use with kindergarten hands. Purchase enough materials to make your set.

I recommend enough for a small group of students if you do guided math, or you can create an entire class set, for example, to use during calendar math time. I’ll be using poster board, craft foam, pony beads, pipe cleaners {chenille sticks} and double sided tape for this tutorial.

Now, let’s roll this thing out!

how to make a math material bead rack {tutorial} - KindergartenWorks

Step 1. Cut a large poster board into strips to match the size your set of pre-cut craft foam. I normally can purchase both items at the Dollar Tree and make a set for my small group and have lots of materials left over.

You’ll need 1 piece of poster board and 1 piece of craft foam for each math bead rack.


Step 2. Poke 4 holes using the chenille sticks {or a small knife tip) through your craft foam. Two on top and two on bottom.

I recommend not going to close to the edge to make it sturdy, but far enough away from each other so that when you place the chenille stick through the front, the beads will have enough room to move to both sides of the pipe cleaner.

I used pipe cleaners cut in half to make each rod.

how to make a math material bead rack {tutorial} - KindergartenWorks

Step 3. This can be done before or after you poke the holes, but place the pony beads in 2 colors {I drifted from the typical red and white of a rekenrek} onto the pipe cleaner.

You’ll want to use 5 of one color and 5 of another. This allows you to use the entire rod/pipe cleaner set of 10, or to see patterns using the 5 on top and 5 on the second rod below, creating a ten frame arrangement.

Repeat with the second pipe cleaner on the bottom.

how to make a math material bead rack {tutorial} - KindergartenWorks

Step 4. Bend the pipe cleaner ends at the back of the craft foam sheet to ensure that the rods will not be pulled out when the math bead rack is being used by ever-so-gentle kinder hands.

how to make a math material bead rack {tutorial} - KindergartenWorks

Step 5. Add a layer of double sided sticky tape to the back of the craft foam, especially around the edges and near where the pipe cleaners are bent.

I have it picture here as done prior to step 2, but adding tape on the back will allow you to create a more sturdy manipulative.

how to make a math material bead rack {tutorial} - KindergartenWorks

Step 6. Peel off the double sided sticky tape off the back and place a pre-cut piece of posterboard from step 1 to cover the back.

This will make sure the entire back is sealed and the pipe cleaners are much more likely to stay in place and ensure your home made manipulative lasts a lot longer.

Since learning the value of bringing this into my box of teacher tools, I’ve even added rekenrek cards to my calendar math binder pages to use  for subitizing/comparing/solving activities.

how to make a math material bead rack {tutorial} - KindergartenWorks

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Rekenrek resources online

More Math for Kindergarten


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