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Saturday, October 18, 2014

DIY Rekenrek

Rekenrek is the buzz word today but has actually been around for quite some time.  You can buy them or attempt to make them as a DIY project.  I've tried several ways of making them including craft foam and 4X6 laminated cards.  They work fine for a while, but are flimsy and don't last as long.

Up front, I'll just admit it.  I am a paint stick hoarder.  I love to make activities and games with paint sticks.  Put paint stick in my search box and you will see :)  So it makes sense that I turned paint sticks into rekenreks.  And the jury is out, after one year, they have held together nicely and are easy to store in a bucket.  When the children need their math tools, they grab a stick.  It's hands on and the paint stick gives them a handle to hold while they manipulate the beads.  

The post is part of the BRIGHT IDEAS LINKY PARTY.  Keep on reading for links to other amazing ideas.

These are the drilled-hole version.  I slide the pipe cleaner through the holes and used a glue gun to secure the ends.

I also use BIGGIE BEADS!!! instead of pony beads.  My secret is OUT!  I discovered BIGGIE BEADS in a craft store 4 years ago, and it just hit me that these would be much better than pony beads. And even better, they are cheaper in the long run.  You get tons - 1200 beads for $8.99 at Amazon or you can use your 40% off Sunday coupon at Michaels.  They are used to make crafts where you iron them down to make different shapes such as butterflies.  But I digress, they are AWESOME!!!  In fact, sign up by email at the top right corner so you don't miss out on any of the posts I have about using these in the classroom for math manipulatives. 


  • Paint stick
  • 2 black pipe cleaners
  • 20 Biggie Beads consisting of 2 colors 10 each
  • Glue gun

You can choose 2 different methods for making these rekenreks.  In the picture above, I had my husband drill 4 small holes in the paint stick - two at each end.  Don't have a drill?  No worries. I went all of last year doing it with this method as seen in this picture.

These are the glued version.  I glue the pipe cleaners to the ends.
Glue the pipe cleaners down at the ends.  They work the same.  The main thing to be aware of is that you want the ends to be equal, so when you slide the beads they line up.
  • Cut pipe cleaners to the desired length.
  • Glue down the pipe cleaners on the left side making sure they line up evenly.
  • Slide 5 beads of the same color on each of the pipe cleaners.
  • Slide 5 more beads of a different color after the previous step.
  • Pull tight or stretch the pipe cleaner tightly.
  • Glue the pipe cleaners on the right side.
  • Let cool.
  • Ready to learn!
  • If you have children who are left-handed, you can make the hand holder on the opposite side.  Just make sure the bead colors will be in the same placement as the right handed version, which actually means the opposite.
Where can you store them?  I store mine in a tub and then pass out as needed during whole group instruction. They are also used during small group and during independent math stations.

Where did I get my paint sticks? Originally, I asked. You can ask Walmart, Lowe's or Home Deport to donate your paint sticks or you can buy them separately which is what I do now since I use them for other projects.

What do you do with a rekenrek?

HERE is a great resource website with explanations and activities for using a rekenrek with your students.  

HERE is a FREE 2.0 Tool (as of this post) called the Number Rack for an online computer model for a rekenrek.

HERE is a FREE iPad App (as of this post) of a rekenrek. 

If you liked these ideas please consider following me on FACE BOOK, PINTEREST, or TEACHERS PAY TEACHERS.

Now here are the links to the other teachers participating in the Bright Ideas Linky.

Have fun!  If you have any comments or questions, please leave them at the end of the Linky Posts.

Thanks for stopping by!  The linky goes live at 9:00 a.m. CST on Saturday, October 18, 2014.


  1. I love big beads and I can not lie... Thanks for a great post. Must hoard more paint sticks. Jayne
    Smart Kids

    1. LOL! I had to read the first line again. Seriously did laugh out loud. I have a special box in my house for hoarding paint sticks. Have fun! Thanks for visiting my blog.

  2. So excited to make these! This was on my weekend To-Do list :) Great timing!
    One Sassy Teacher

    1. AWESOME!!! They didn't take me very long to make. Have a great weekend. Thanks for visiting my blog.

  3. I've always thought rekenreks were interesting but I've not used them. I may need to make some of these and experiment.

    1. Scott, start with making a set of 5 and use for a small group. You will be hooked. They really help with understanding the concept of 5 and 10. Look at my post that came before this one to see how I use working within 10 with just one popsicle stick too. Thanks for visiting my blog.

  4. My two favorite things beads and paint sticks, can't wait to try this out!

    1. Thanks for visiting my blog Celeste! I'm a paint stick girl too. The handle makes it easy for the children to hold and manipulate. Great fine motor and crossing the midline too.

  5. I'm not crafty, but I think I could pull this off! I have a few second graders that would really benefit from some rekenreks!

    Sally from Elementary Matters

    1. I'm not crafty either. I'm great with a glue gun though :) They don't take very long to make and YES! they will help your struggling second graders too.

  6. do the biggie beads come in packages of single colors? i can only find the mixed color bucket?

  7. I have never heard of a rekenrek and just had to hop over here to figure out what it was when I saw your pin on Pinterest. I may have to make up a couple for my kids to try -- I am a sucker for paintsticks and beads,too!