Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Cuisenaire Chefs

Janet Greathouse
Bay District Schools


Students become Cuisenaire Chefs as they mix and toss Cuisenaire rods to recreate recipes. This hands-on acivity gives students a chance to identify the value of fractions at an introductory level.


The student understands concrete and symbolic representations of whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and percents in real-world situations.

The student understands that numbers can be represented in a variety of equivalent forms using whole numbers, decimals, fractions, and percents.


- Overhead projector or board
- Cuisenaire rods
- Cuisenaire Chart for student's copies and overhead transparency (see Associated File)
- Mixing bowls
- Recipes brought from home
- 3 x 5 index cards
- Paper


1.Give students time to bring in recipes from home.
2.When you receive the recipes, select five or six to be used for Session II Step 9.
3.Prepare answer keys for the chosen recipes to evaluate and assess group work from Session II Step 14. Remember to include all applicable equivalencies.
4. Select and copy one recipe to use for the summative assessment. The card should contain a variety of fractional values.
5. Copy Cuisenaire Charts, one per student and teacher transparency.


Background: A week or two prior to this lesson, announce to the class that they need to find and bring in a favorite recipe from home.

Session I
1. Students share the favorite recipes they brought in from home.
2. As a class, discuss and identify the fractions used on the recipe cards. List the fractions discussed on an overhead projector or board. Tell the students that they will be working with models over the next few days to help them understand the value of these fractions. Collect recipe cards.
3. Introduce the model of Cuisenaire rods. Allow exploration time for students to work with the Cuisenaire rods. Encourage students to try and find different ways to represent each colored rod.
4. After the exploration time, come together as a whole group and discuss students' findings. Use an overhead transparency of the Cuisenaire Chart to record students' comments and observations. Questions may be used to guide discovery if students are struggling. For example: How else can we make a purple rod? How many white rods would it take? How many red rods?

Session II
5. Tell students that today's activity will allow them to begin making connections between Cuisenaire rods and the fractional values represented on their recipe cards.
6. Discuss how Cuisenaire rods are representative of real-life amounts, such as fractions on a recipe card.
7. Use a made-up recipe, such as the Cuisenaire Breadsticks recipe listed below, to demonstrate how a Cuisenaire Chef uses rods to create culinary delights.
8. Model how to use the rods to represent the fractional values of the recipe. For example, show students that 7/10 of an orange rod could be represented using seven white rods or one black rod. Use the manipulatives to show that these rods are equivalent.
9. After the demonstration, divide the class into groups containing three to four students. Hand out a different recipe to each group. (Select recipes from those brought in by the students that contain several different fractions.)
10. Pass out a copy of the Cuisenaire Chart to each student. Have the groups list each fraction found on their recipe cards on the bottom part of the chart. If the fraction is listed more than once, the students should list it again.
11. Encourage students to experiment with the Cuisenaire rods to find the colored rods that represent each fraction on their recipe cards. If a fraction is listed more than once, have students try to find a different way to represent that fraction. For example, 1/2 could be represented as 2/4 of a purple rod or 3/6 of a dark green rod. Students record the Cuisenaire Rods Used to represent each fraction on the bottom part of the chart.
12. Remind students that as they discover equivalencies, they should also chart them in the Equivalencies column.
13. When finished, the groups rewrite the recipes as fractions of Cuisenaire rods on a clean 3x5 card. (Post the recipe Cuisenaire Breadsticks as a model for the students to follow.)
14. The answer to the recipe, the rods that are found in the completed mixture, is listed on a different 3x5 card. Both cards are turned in to the teacher at the end of Session II.

Session III
*Before beginning the third session, evaluate the groups' recipes and answer cards to check for misconceptions and guarantee accuracy. Set aside time to work with groups or individuals needing additional assistance.

15. Pass back the recipes and answer cards to the groups.

16. Have groups exchange their recipe cards. When the new group has completed a mixture, they give it to the original group to be checked. Groups continue to switch recipe cards and check answer cards throughout the session on a rotating basis. This provides an opportunity for students to practice with a variety of fractions and their values.

(The following is a sample recipe that might be used for this lesson.)

Cuisenaire Breadsticks

In a small mixing bowl combine:
7/10 orange rod
2/3 light green rod
5/7 black rod
2/4 purple rod
1 pinch of white rod
8/9 blue rod
Mix until ingredients reach desired consistency.

Answer: Completed mixture should contain 1 black rod, 2 red rods, 1 yellow rod, 1 white rod, and 1 brown rod.


Formative Assessment: Converting recipe cards (group work)
Session II, Steps 11-14 and Session III, Step 16

While working with the rods and recipes, observe students to see that they
(a) use concrete materials (Cuisenaire rods) appropriately to
(b) translate the recipes into models representing equivalent forms of common fractions.

Summative Assessment: Converting recipe cards (individual work)
After completing Session III, pass out a copy of the recipe chosen in Teacher Preparation step #4 to each student. Instruct students to use Cuisenaire rods to represent the fractions on the recipe. The recipe is rewritten on a clean sheet of paper and assessed to see that the students correctly translated the recipes into models representing equivalent forms. Grades are assigned based on normal percentages, and extra credit is offered for showing multiple equivalencies of the fraction (i.e, representing 1/2 in more than one way).


During center time, students create their own culinary delights based on Cuisenaire rods and their fractional representations. Recipes are listed on the front of 3x5 cards, and answers are listed on the back. When all students have rotated through the center, the cards are compiled in a cookbook and used for future center exploration.
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