How to Make a Rekenrek

How to make a rekenrek

Use the directions below to make a rekenrek for each student in your class for just a fraction of the cost of store bought models.

 200 red beads
200 white beads
 6 yds. beading elastic
 20 medium weight chipboard sheets,  


Things to consider: 

  • The above materials will make 20 small two row rekenreks (4in. x 6in.) This size is perfect for little hands but if you would prefer to make a larger size purchase  8 1/2 in. x 11 in. chipboard sheets and cut in half to make two 8 1/2in. x 5 1/2in. boards.

  • The beads usually come in packets of 750-1000 so you can save money by working with another teacher on your grade level and splitting the cost of materials. You could also cut the boards from cardboard boxes, although if you are making a class set this may be too time consuming to make it worth the effort.

Directions:These directions are for 4in. x 6in. boards. If you are making a larger size adjust the measurements accordingly.

  • Use the tip of your scissors (or a large needle) to poke two small holes at each end of the chipboard sheet, about 1in. in from the side.

  • Cut two 5in. lengths of elastic. Place one end of each piece of elastic into the holes at one end of the board and tie in a knot at the back.

  • Place five white beads and five red beads on each length of elastic. When looking at the finished board, the beads should be pushed over to the ‘Start Position’ (the right hand side), with the white beads on the right and the red beads towards the left. Note that the start position has the beads on the right so that when a child pushes the beads over s/he can ‘read’ the rekenrek from left to right.

  • Once all the beads are on the elastic, thread the elastic through the holes on the other end and tie securely so that the elastic is pulled tight.

If you are having a curriculum information session early in the year where you will discuss your math curriculum have your students’ parents help you with this project. Explain how you will be using this tool throughout the year and show parents a few of the rekenrek activities that you will be introducing throughout the year to develop number sense. Get them to help you out by making two for their child: one for school and one to take home. If you have all the materials ready ahead of time this should only take a few minutes and will save you having to make them all yourself.

Rekenrek Build a Set

Another option is to purchase this Rekenrek Build a Set from EAI Education which comes with all the materials you need to build 50 two-bar rekenreks.

Rekenrek Clip Art

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