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  • Writer's pictureLara

5 Number Rack Activities for Math Workshop Centers, Quick and Easy!

Updated: Nov 4, 2023


5 Math Centers using reknreks

Rekenrek Overview


Rekenreks, also called math racks, number racks, or arithmetic racks are a great tool to encourage students to develop more sophisticated counting strategies beyond counting objects one by one. A rekenrek, or bead rack, has two rods, with 10 beads each, five red and five white. Because of its structure with 10 beads in each row and 5 of each color, rekenreks can help students learn anchors to 5 and 10. Similar to a 10 frame, it helps students see numbers as groups that can be recognized, manipulated, and used to find multiple solutions for problems while developing their number sense. If you’d like more information about rekenreks and how to introduce them you can read this blog post or watch this video.


Download some free rekenrek activities here to get started!




If you’re looking to dig deeper, these are some of my favorite activities to do with rekenreks.


Quick Images


Quick Images is a number sense routine perfect for the beginning or end of your math block as a warm up or review. To play you show a quick image card with a rekenrek on it for 3-5 seconds and your students have to figure out how many beads your rekenrek shows. They can also build the same rekenrek you showed on their own rekenrek or record how many they saw. You can get printable cards here or a digital version of rekenrek quick images here.



Pick and Build

Pick and Build, Image of  a rekenrek with color printable rekrenrek cards

For this activity, your students will pick a rekenrek card or numeral card and make the same number on their rekenrek. Bonus if they can do it in as few slides as possible! This activity is great for morning work so that your students become more familiar with the different combinations of beads on the arithmetic rack without having to worry about writing or recognizing the numeral. While we want them to connect a number to a quantity to a value sometimes it helps to reduce the cognitive load and have them focused on just one aspect of number. Take a closer look at the rekenrek task cards!


Spin and Slide

To play spin and slide, you will have your students either spin a spinner with rekenreks on it or numerals. Then your students will slide the beads in place to match the number they spun. Try to encourage them to slide all the beads at once if they are ready for it! There are four versions of this game linked here on TPT and here on the site. The first version has a 1 to 10 number rack spinner, the second version has an 11 to 20 number rack spinner, the third version has a 1 to 10 number spinner and the fourth version has an 11 to 20 number spinner. The rekenrek spinners will be easier for students to use because they would be matching the number rack to the image. If they're working with the number spinner they wouldn't have a model to look at so it may be more of a challenge in addition to using the larger number range. Also included are black and white and color recording sheets with 4 or 8 rekenreks on them or a rekenreks on them which you can choose from depending on how much space you think your students might need.



Pick Build and Cover


The next game is called Pick, Build and Cover. To play, your students will pick a rekenrek card, build it on their rekenrek and then find the number on their game mat and cover it. You can easily differentiate this game by using only numbers 1-10, 1-20 or 11-20. Included in this activity are six sets of the small math racks cards marked with a different shape so that it's easy to keep the sets organized; there are also versions with and without numeral support.



⭐ You can find recording sheets and cards for the next two games for free here!



How Many Combinations Can You Find?


To play How Many Combinations Can You Find, give your students the number they will be decomposing if you are working on one number at a time. You could also have them spin, roll a dice, or pick a number card and have them try to find different combinations for the number they got. Once they have their target number, they will work with a partner to figure out the different ways they can make the target number, draw the combinations they found on their recording sheet, and write the numbers of combinations they found. To work with partners, one student moves beads on the top and the other on the bottom and together they can check to see if they found the target number and show the combinations they found on their recording sheet. You can get the recording sheet for free here.


Bonus: Spin and Cover

For this game you will need a paperclip and pencil as a spinner or spinner, I like these from amazon. Spin a number using the spinner and find that number on the chart. After the number has been found, the students will cover that rekenrek with a counter and continue until all numbers have been spun. Black and White and Color versions of 1-10 and 11-20 are included in the free download!


I hope you found these rekenrek math station ideas helpful and that your students enjoy using them in your classroom. If you'd like to see these games in action you can see them in the video below. Don't forget to get your free rekenrek bonus activities here or save on the Rekenrek Math Centers Activity Bundle! Happy Counting!




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