How to Quickly Make Your Own Rekenrek using Plastic Canvas - Down River Resources | Your Elementary Math Guide

How to Quickly Make Your Own Rekenrek using Plastic Canvas

Rekenreks are a powerful number sense tool in the elementary math classroom. So why aren't more teachers using them? Often times, the cost of rekenreks prevent teachers from using them. Purchasing a rekenrek, much less a class set of rekenreks, can break the bank! I have made plenty of rekenreks to use with my mathematicians so I wanted to show you a simple AND cost-effective way of making your own class set of rekenreks!

I'll show you how to make DIY rekenreks using two different types of materials. You can pick the best option for your budget or supply closet... wait, what's that?! I get you, it might be called "Walmart" or "Amazon."

The directions below are for PLASTIC CANVAS DIY rekenreks, scroll down and see if this is a good-fit for your classroom. 

If not, click here to read the directions for FOAM DIY rekenreks.


* Please note: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend items that I use regularly and know you will love!

Materials Need for EACH Rekenrek: 

1Gather the materials. 

You will need the materials listed above specifically, which include plastic canvas, pony beads, pipe cleaners, and tape.

2Weave pipe cleaners through the plastic canvas. 

I counted four empty units, to the right and from the top, before inserting the pipe cleaner. I repeated this process for the second pipe cleaner, but I counted the units to the right and from the bottom

3. Add five red and five white pony beads per pipe cleaner.

It is IMPERITIVE that you place the pony beads in the correct order, using only red and white colors.

The colors and arrangement of colors are intentional to support mathematicians seeing the number and keeping the tool consistent across settings. 

4. Twist the ends of the pipe cleaners on the back of the plastic canvas to secure.

I connected the top and bottom rows together on each side snuggly.

5. Add a little tape around the ends of the pipe cleaners to prevent poking. 

I haven't had any trouble with this, but you never know, right?!

6. Push pony beads across the rows to use.

Slide the beads across the rows to use! Remember, "white to the right!" All of the pony beads start on the right side of the rekenrek. Beads are slid from right to left.

If this isn't a good-fit for your classroom, try FOAM DIY rekenreks.

Want the printable directions for DIY rekenreks sent straight to your inbox? Fill out the form below! 

If you want to hit the ground running using rekenreks with your elementary math classroom, you might be interested in my ultimate Rekenrek Toolkit.

My Rekenrek Toolkit is complete with these printable directions, lesson plans, printables for your mathematicians, number booklets, puzzles, and so much more! 

I have used the tools found in this toolkit in my personal classroom to teach mathematicians how to use rekenreks and it is now a classroom favorite! 

Rekenreks are great for composing and decomposing numbers, as shown in the photograph below.

Mathematicians learn how to structure numbers one through 20 using rekenreks.

I hope this post inspires you create rekenreks for your elementary math classroom to support your mathematicians' number sense. 

What materials will you use to create your rekenreks? I'd love to see them in action! 

Tag me on social media --> @downriveredu

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