Brain Research tells us that being physically involved with the learning process helps learning. It also suggests that use of color helps make connections. Teachers know that kids (and adults) tend to key into color, and children love to use manipulatives!
With Cuisenaire Rods (see picture) the white rod, the smallest, is one cubic centimeter.(This is the same size as a standard base ten block.) The longest rod is orange. When the children put the rods by length, they make a colorful "staircase". (See picture.)
The children can then assign values to each rod by color based upon the relationship of the other rods.
I like to start with sets of ten, since our number system is based on ten. It's good for them to know those combinations of ten!
It also shows 10-1=9 as well as 10-9=1.
I made these center sheets for the students. (Click the image for the freebie!) I prefer the children work with partners on activities like this since the conversations they have help the learning. If you run these off back to back, you can make two sided, half size papers.
For more sheets like this, click here:
I've also found a link for online Cuisenaire Rods!