# Which is more helpful to learn: Abacus or Cuisenaire rods?

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I've been learning along with my dd6 and ds8 how to use both, but it's time consuming and getting to the point where I don't have enough time to devote to teaching either one thoroughly. We have all the materials to do RightStart Abacus study, and would use Miquon books set and educationunboxed videos online to do Cuisenaire rods. My goal is for them to have good number sense, be able to "see" the abacus beads or rods clearly in their heads when they come across a math problem. Which program do you think is more powerful to learn in the long run: abacus or c-rods?

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I like the RightStart Abacus for teaching

- place value

I like Cuisenaire rods for teaching

- number bonds for basic addition/subtraction facts

- multiplication

- fractions

I started out as a RightStart Abacus user. Here's the thread that convinced me to try Cuisenaire Rods.

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We've been using both as well... I'm thinking if I had to choose one, I would choose C-rods simply b/c my dd seems to understand/recall those better. When I ask her a question, she answers in terms of c-rods (or is thinking of them in her head).

However, I think it would be useful to hear from others who have used both for a longer period of time. :)

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We used both, and I let my son choose whichever aid was more helpful / relevant to him in solving a particular problem. Presently he rarely resorts to them, as he likes to do computations in his head, because, according to him, it is faster.

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I don't think you need to spend as much time teaching their use as you think you do?

I just use C-rods right now, though I have an abacus if we run into something that would work better with that. My middle son started using C-rods at age 4, and he immediately got the color/number association (quicker than I did), and now he uses them for his regular math, which is first grade level, so adding, subtracting, missing addend, etc. C-rods are so great for those problems, being able to see the number bonds. This child is also VSL, thinking in pictures, so he actually has pictures of C-rods in his head when recalling facts.

My oldest doesn't use any manipulatives, though we did pull out base 10 blocks when doing the adding across 10s concept (8+5=10+3=13). Otherwise, he just doesn't need them, so I don't use them for him. He has a good conceptual understanding without them. We did do a brief explanation of the abacus when we were using MM1B, but that's it. He's never actually used the abacus for his math since then.

Whatever math I'm teaching, I grab the manipulative that is necessary for that child to understand that problem. You don't have to teach everything over and over again on multiple manipulatives. Pick one, and if the kid isn't learning, switch to a different one and see if that helps. Manipulatives are a tool to use for math. Teaching their use should not take up all your time. :)

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Whatever math I'm teaching, I grab the manipulative that is necessary for that child to understand that problem. You don't have to teach everything over and over again on multiple manipulatives. Pick one, and if the kid isn't learning, switch to a different one and see if that helps. Manipulatives are a tool to use for math. Teaching their use should not take up all your time. :)

I'd like my kids to work toward mastery with one of these tools, whether abacus of c-rods. They've dabbled with both of them enough, can do basic addition and subtraction with both, they've learned place value with abacus and number bonds with c-rods. But I don't want them to be dabblers, I want them to be GOOD at one of them. I think there's value in becoming adept at using them, to where it becomes second nature, and the child can start to visualize the beads or rods instantaneously. To become proficient at anything takes time and practice. We haven't even gotten to learning how to use abacus or c-rods in multiplication, division, fractions or decimals. The AL abacus activities & worksheet books have several hundreds pages of teacher-directed material, and Miquon is not exactly open and go either. It takes time for ME to learn how to do it, then for me to teach the kids how to do it, then for them to have adequate practice to where they feel comfortable. I'm feeling the time crunch where we don't have enough hours in the day to fit everything in, and now we have to decide which apparatus to go into deeper. I've read the long thread above (thank you for the link!) discussing the pros and cons of abacus and c-rods, but at the end there didn't appear to be a consensus on which was the better tool for children to learn math concepts on (even spycar agreed that the abacus had certain benefits over c-rods, gasp! :tongue_smilie:). That thread was from a couple years ago though, and wondered if people had a chance to explore the options and prefer one over the other.

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As far as I know, there aren't studies comparing them. And I don't think you'll find a consensus because the majority of people use them both depending on the topic and the child.

I understand the idea of really mastering a tool, but I don't personally think it applies in this situation to the extent that you're talking about.

If you really want to go with one, then choose the one your kids gravitate toward and do that.

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I think there's value in becoming adept at using them, to where it becomes second nature, and the child can start to visualize the beads or rods instantaneously.

Not all children will visualize the manipulative though. Visualizing the manipulatives is useful for visual thinkers, but the rest of us sometimes have other ways of remembering things that work better for us. :) Do your kids think in pictures? I have one that does and two that don't. The one that does uses the C-rods when he needs them. Most of the time, he doesn't even need them anymore. A small amount of play got the pictures into his head, and he's good now. He uses them if he can't recall a fact.

We haven't even gotten to learning how to use abacus or c-rods in multiplication, division, fractions or decimals.
Considering that your kids are 8 and 6, I'm not really expecting them to be doing THAT much yet. Basic multiplication and division should be studied by the 8 year old, but I wouldn't expect a ton of fractions/decimals yet, and I wouldn't expect the 6 year old to be beyond addition/subtraction yet (note that I say "expect"... Your 6 year old may be perfectly ready for those topics, as many kids here often are, but that's called being "ahead" of the average math student, and if you're in that position, you don't need to worry about having enough time to get it all in).

I'm feeling the time crunch where we don't have enough hours in the day to fit everything in, and now we have to decide which apparatus to go into deeper.
I'm not sure why it would take more than 30 minutes a day to study math with either or both tools? :confused:

I've read the long thread above (thank you for the link!) discussing the pros and cons of abacus and c-rods, but at the end there didn't appear to be a consensus on which was the better tool for children to learn math concepts on (even spycar agreed that the abacus had certain benefits over c-rods, gasp! :tongue_smilie:). That thread was from a couple years ago though, and wondered if people had a chance to explore the options and prefer one over the other.

Whichever one is better will depend on the individual child. Look at each child and how they use each manipulative. If you put both in front of them and said, "Work this problem", which one would they grab first? Use that one.

Just don't forget the ultimate goal of math... to learn the MATH, not how to use an abacus or C-rods. These are tools to help a child understand the math. If you're spending all your time learning how to use the tool, maybe it's not the right tool for you. Do your children understand how to add and subtract WITHOUT manipulatives? Or do they still rely on the tool for every problem? I use these tools to show a concept, and allow the tool to be used while it is necessary, but I encourage moving away from the tool once they are capable. My 5 year old rarely uses C-rods for addition/subtraction of single digits now. He is recalling his facts. We'll use them more when we get to adding across 10's in the next unit of Singapore. I know that he will use the C-rods for a while, then start to phase them out, then he'll do the problems in his head. All this may very well occur before we even get done with that unit.

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Do YOU have a preference? Seriously. As you said, the teacher training time is brutal. In GENERAL, I believe in tweaking for students, but picking a core curriculum that the TEACHER is confident with, and likes to teach. When it comes to preparing skills lessons, I put in an average of 3 hours for every 1 hour a students works. Sometimes up to 20 hours for each student hour, when I'm studying a new method.

I have juggled a variety of conceptual methods, and am still finding my way, so can't give you advice about which ones are best. But to just pick what YOU like. Anything YOU master first and are excited about, will be the best method for the student.

I've found I tend to gravitate towards fingerwork, and copywork and recitations of charts, and money as a manipulative, with a radically narrow focus on arithmetic. Then we are adding in some read alouds to round things out a BIT. I'm excited about what I am learning. A student is excited about what she is learning. I've been warned it's not "good enough". It's working for NOW. Progress is being made. We'll see what happens.

First and foremost, I've learned I need to be grounded, confident and excited as a teacher. And the student will usually follow along happily and profitably.

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