Too Cool For School

When I was five, my favourite school equipment was Cuisinaire Rods. I built towers, stacked them in 3D blocks, and layed out Mondrianesque geometric mosaics across the desk.  I liked the way the colours stained the little wooden rods slightly unevenly, so each had subtle variations in depth of colour.  

The rods imbued each number with a distinct colour-and-size-driven personality.  I preferred four (cerise) and six (deep emerald green) and disliked seven (an insipid black, faded like an overwashed black T-shirt). 

Recently a friend of mine, who always gives the most brilliant gifts, gave me my very own fresh set of Cuisinaire Rods.  I envisaged sharing my childhood joys with my own children, but realised after several ‘white peas’  were eaten, that I’d got the timing wrong by a few years.  For now they are, in fact, the perfect adult desk toy for idle moments or long phone calls.  I’ll try again in a few years, if I can bear to share.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Picky on March 29, 2010 at 8:13 am

    I have been trying to buy rods for years – they don’t sell them in this country – for no apparent reason except that everyone in the whole wide world should have at least one set and I have no idea where mine are (probably long ago donated to charity). We do have one discrepancy. I learned that four was magenta. I remember that very well because Mrs Gaff insisted that it wasn’t pink and I had never heard that word before kindergarten. Cerise, however, is on a whole new level. Rods not only give numbers colour – they give them space and smell and sound. (Smell your rods – they’re nice and fresh and woody – a refreshing respite from the keyboard and computer screen and Little Einstein videos). Rods are also musical – when they bump each other they make a lovely noise. Rods teach you to add, subtract and multiply instinctively, AND you can use them to build things. I now have a task for my trip next month – a box of rods for each member of the next generation, and one or two for me.

    Reply

    • Ahhhh, Picky, I’m happy with either magenta or cerise, so long as they aren’t described as pathetically pedestrian pink. And I know exactly what you mean about their musicality – we used to have corroborees using the teal nines and orange tens as rhythm sticks. You can buy Cuisenaire Rods at http://kembo.com.au. If you are feeling single minded, they even do bulk sets of a single colour.

      Reply

      • Oh my god. I have just been transported back in time. I LOVED these things. But not teal my friend! Peacock blue silly girl!

      • Silly, silly me. Maybe the problem is I never had my colours done in the1980’s. I often lie awake at night wondering if I’m ‘Summer’ or ‘Autumn’. No wonder I don’t know my teal from my peacock.

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