Cuisenaire-Gattegno Course May-June

Location: Fox Primary School, London
Dates; Tuesday 25 May, Thursday 8 June; Thursday 29 June, Time: 13:30-17:30
Facilitators: Jenny Cane, Lorraine Hartley, Ian Benson

The use of concrete manipulatives is essential in developing conceptual understanding in mathematics. One common, but at times underused, resource is Cuisenaire.This series of sessions aims to support Year 2 teachers and/or KS1 Maths Co-ordinators in using Cuisenaire to explore mathematical structures and relationships. In addition to the face to face sessions which will include demonstration sessions with a group of learners, we encourage participants to work with other teachers in between the sessions, observing each other at their schools. All resources and activities created during the sessions will be shared with other teachers within the hub.

To request a place, which is not guaranteed, email your name, email address and school name to

Download file "FoxFlyer.pdf"


ATM Event Tuesday April 11 2017

The ATM have posted a new public resource which discusses the impact that computer algebra languages and systems
(CALS) are having on learning and teaching mathematics.

ATM have convened a working group of members and other experts drawn from mathematics education both university and pre-university, technology vendors and mathematics education research to update this 1995 booklet..

A special session is planned for ATM Conference on Tuesday 11 April at 14:00-15:30

Visit ATM to reserve a day delegate place.

(the illustration shows a learner using a CALS system to compose a successor and predecessor function for a user defined datatype that models the Cuisenaire-Gattegno "staircase" (c) Sociality Mathematics CIC, MMXVII. Learner aged 6 after 4 terms of The Primary Mathematics)


Early Algebra Event Nov 15/16

Facilitator: Rachael Rudge
Location: Kesgrave High School (15/11) Tudor C of E Primary Academy (Sudbury) (16/11)
Time: 13:30-16:00

The Norfolk & Suffolk Maths Hub are running a FREE 2 day course looking at introducing and developing algebra in Key Stage 1 classrooms. The course is being run by Rachel Rudge who started on this workgroup with the Maths Hub in 2015/2016 and is continuing this further this academic year. The course will be based on introducing Cuisenaire rods and the concepts of equivalence, addition and difference and how to write equations using the letters to represent the rods and the plus, minus and equals sign. There will be a gap task followed by a second event in February. This will feature feedback from teachers on the gap task and will look at the concepts of multiplication, division and fractions as operators using the rods. The rods will be assigned numbers for the second session.

Download file "CPD sessions.pdf"


Early Algebra Event December 5

Facilitators: Jenny Cane, Ian Benson
Location: Bursted Wood Primary School
Time: 16:00-18:00

We are pleased to announce a twilight event on Early Algebra for KS1 teachers and mathematics co-ordinators. Places are available on a first-come, first-served basis here..

Download file "Invitation to Dec5 event.pdf"


Computing at School June 18

Title: Bridging Mathematics and Computer Science with Haskell
Venue: Computing at School Conference, Birmingham, UK

Workshop session summary: The statutory entitlements for mathematics and computer science require learners to be able to move fluently between representations of mathematical ideas and to master computational thinking. At university level conceptual mathematics unifies the study of algebra, geometry and logic. We have developed a set of (6) exercises that apply conceptual mathematics to meet these new entitlements.

In this session we will show how to apply this approach to Caleb Gattegno's early algebra. Gattegno was a pure mathematician and educationist who was founding secretary of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics (ATM). He uses Cuisenaire resources to teach all four arithmetic operations and fractions as operators in Year 1 as required in the new curriculum. His is the only proven way to do this. In Gattegno's concept graph algebra is introduced before arithmetic through the study of constructions made with colour coded rods. We have been exploring the use of Haskell as a language to model these elements and operations across the transition from primary to secondary school. We have found that it provides a useful bridge between the statutory requirements for mathematics and computer science as well as an invaluable vehicle for teacher professional development.

Speaker biography: Ian Benson is acting CEO of Sociality Mathematics CIC, a community interest company that supports a network of schools following the Cuisenaire-Gattegno approach to mathematics. He is a member of the General Council of the ATM. Ian has a PhD in Computer Science (Cantab), a Masters in Symbolic Computation (Stanford) and a Masters degree (Cantab) in Mathematics. This workshop describes the results of a pilot project with Year 6 and Year 7 mathematics and computer science students.


Seminar June 2

Gattegno’s cryptomorphisms: Modeling algebraic understanding in the early years
Room 102, Jordan Building, Stanford University

Caleb Gattegno was a pure mathematician and educationalist. A sometime associate of Jean Piaget and Jean Dieudonne, Gattegno pioneered a radical reconceptualization of pre-university mathematics, including advocating the study of algebra before arithmetic. Gattegno approached teaching the integer and rational number systems through student investigations using sets of ideograms of color coded cuboids (“Cuisenaire rods”) in a variety of configurations together with the equivalence relations between them. He wrote, "All mathematical discoveries of importance can be traced to a dynamic alteration within our mind of existing organized images, or ideas."(1) He elaborated a theory of learning to account for this process. A central idea was that, in learning to listen and speak, or to see and move, a baby has already developed the capacity to reason algebraically. Educationists have recently rediscovered the merits of "early algebraization."(2,3) Similarly his learning model forshadows "dual process" psychological theories of higher cognition.(4) To Gattegno, all mathematical reasoning was grounded in mental imagery that required a conscious “awareness” of algebraic structure for its manipulation. His proposal for the new (Cui) curriculum challenged the learner with a series of progressively more complex “rod worlds.” Elements and actions in the rod world are mirrored in virtual actions on imagery suggested by these actions. Color codes and notation are used to give names to these elements and actions. Learners are encouraged from Year 1 (aged 5) to read and write expressions and equations in simple formal languages. They learn to move fluently between these representations of mathematical ideas so that the elements and operations or actions of one structure can be substituted for the elements and operations or actions of the other: a “cryptomorphism.” In this seminar we will explore exercises drawn from Gattegno's text-books, and illustrate these activities with examples of students’ work.

Participants may wish to download virtual rod resources to their laptop, iOS or android devices: links to follow can be found here.

Download file "IntroToCuisenaire.pdf"

(1) C. Gattegno, Thinking Afresh About Arithmetic, Arithmetic Teacher, v6, 1, 1959, p30-32
(2) For an overview see Chapter 1: Treating the Operations of Arithmetic as Functions, David Carraher, Analúcia D. Schliemann and Bárbara Brizuela
Source: Journal for Research in Mathematics Education. Monograph, Vol. 13, 2005, NCTM

(3) Early algebraization : a global dialogue from multiple perspectives, Jinfa Cai and Eric Knuth, 2011

(4) Dual process theories of higher cognition: Advancing the debate. Johnathan St. B. T. Evans, Keith E. Stanovich, Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 223--241


Newham school cluster

The initial meeting of the London NE Maths Hub Early Algebra Workgroup was held at Stratford School Academy on January 7th. Delegates attended from 1, 2 and 4 form entry primary schools. You can learn more about the work here.


Early Algebra Project

In AY 2014/15 in an action research project we piloted a scheme of work based on Book 1 of Gattegno's "Mathematics with numbers in colour" with Bentley and Copdock Schools. The project was funded by the NCETM Norfolk/Suffolk Maths Hub. The local authority have posted a report of our work here


Recent Events

ATM 2016 Conference
Mathematics as a Human Endeavour 
Chesford Grange

Session H3: Thursday 31st March 1600
Title: Graphs, Codes, Number Systems and Gattegno
Who: Ian Benson (ATM General Council), Anne Haworth (ATM Chair)

The statutory entitlements for mathematics and computer science require learners to be able to move fluently between representations of mathematical ideas and to master computational thinking. At university level conceptual mathematics unifies the study of algebra, geometry and logic. We have developed a set of exercises that apply conceptual mathematics to meet these new entitlements. In this session we will show how to apply this approach to Gattegno's early algebra. Gattegno uses Cuisenaire resources to teach all four arithmetic operations and fractions as operators in Year 1. We compare our approach to other ways of meeting the 2014 curriculum aims.


Windmill Cluster of Schools
City Heights e-Act Academy
Workshop Session: Monday 4 January
Title: Getting Started with Early Algebra
Who: Ian Benson, Suzanne Spencer

The Cuisenaire resources are increasingly popular in primary schools as a means of introducing learners to the relationship between numbers, both whole numbers and fractions as operators. Caleb Gattegno popularised Cuisenaire's invention and wrote a series of influential textbooks that taught algebra before arithmetic, using colour code names for the rods, and naming virtual actions, and patterns made with the rods with algebraic writing. We have integrated the Cuisenaire-Gattegno approach with the 2014 National Curriculum to create algebraFirst™ software tools and a curriculum unfolding. In this workshop you will learn about how our approach meets the key aim of the new NC - that pupils and teachers can "move fluently between representations of mathematical ideas."

For information on booking please email pporter-mill at sudbourne dot com and follow @windmillcluster on twitter


Workshops on algebraFirst™ July 9

We will be presenting our work at workshops at the More than the sum of the parts conference in London on July 9.

The 2014 national curriculum requires learners “to move fluently between representations of mathematical ideas.” Gattegno’s Cuisenaire resources are a proven way to meet this aim. In contrast to the traditional counting first approach Gattegno explores the algebraic structure of number before arithmetic. Mathematical ideas are experienced as concrete actions with Cuisenaire rods, virtual actions on mental images and written symbol systems. In these workshops we will discuss how to implement the cycle “concrete – virtual – symbolic” to meet the Year 1 aims. Delegates are encouraged to bring Cuisenaire rods, or tablet computers with the NumBlox app installed (iPad and Android).


Representing Functional Relationships

The study of permutations and combinations of Cuisenaire rods has proved to be a rich source of mathematical tasks motivating abstraction through algebraic symbol systems as well as mathematical generalisation. Cuisenaire-Gattegno is a unique approach that can meet the aim set by the 2014 English national curriculum, that learners “need to be able to move fluently between representations of mathematical ideas.”

In this article I take a rod permutation problem and show how teachers can use this task to support generalisation by employing a new formalism and diagramming convention that records the functional relationships between patterns of Cuisenaire rods. This convention was suggested by William Lawvere and Stephen Schanuel as an “external and internal diagram” for mappings between typed sets. (Conceptual Mathematics,1997,2004)

Download file "Introduction to Conceptual Maths.pdf"


Getting Started With Early Algebra

In two articles, we describe how we are meeting the ambitious Key Stage 1 objectives of the 2014 mathematics curriculum through mathematical writing. The 2013 curriculum requires learners ‘to move fluently between representations of mathematical ideas.’ Children now have to study all four arithmetic operations and fractions as operators for small numbers from Year 1.

Download file " PM March15 Getting Started.pdf"

Download file "PM May 2015 Experiences.pdf"



Title: Co-operative Maths Reform
Speaker: Ian Benson
Event Date: 13/11/2014 (10:00-14:00)
Venue: Birmingham, UK

The 2014 mathematics curriculum requires learners to move fluently between concrete, symbolic and numerical representations of mathematical ideas. Sociality Mathematics CIC is a network of primary and secondary schools who are working together to create high quality resources to meet this end. In this session you will learn how colour-coded Cuisenaire rods are being used to teach all four arithmetic operations and fractions as operators from Year 1, and how Gattegno's "Mathematics with Numbers in Colour" serves as an introduction to computational thinking.

Title: Using the Gattegno/Goutard approach to Cuisenaire rods to enable children to discover the structure of maths for themselves
Speaker: Caroline Ainsworth
Event date: 29/11/2014 (10:00-13:15)
Venue: Manchester, UK


Can computer science rescue mathematics reform?

The new English mathematics curriculum continues to rely first on counting, not algebra. In an opinion piece, from the September edition of the Ring, the magazine of the graduate association of the Cambridge University Computer Laboratory, I argue that computer science in schools can deliver this essential entitlement.

Download file "The Ring -- Issue XXXVII -- September 2014 Opinion.pdf"


Tablets of Wisdom?

Schools have experienced three major waves of computer technology over the last 30 years: micro-computers, networked electronic whiteboards and now an emerging wave of individual one-to-one iPads and Android tablets. In the past, the UK government has found it difficult to demonstrate value from technology in schools. Despite 80 per cent of schools being rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, the country’s performance in international league tables has declined. Is it possible to do better this time? Do business-led school networks have a role in promoting one-to-one learning? Will the Coalition’s less directive approach to technology procurement allow schools to experiment with different models for learning and teaching? And, if they do, how will Ofsted assess schools as they begin to embrace a new pedagogy of flipped classrooms, enquiry and project-based learning?

Download file "AspectSpring.pdf"


Preparing for Mathematics Success at Secondary School

Sociality Mathematics CIC has published the early results of its work developing an approach to formative assessment in Year 7 based on Gattegno's early algebra. A short video can be viewed here. Although there are many reports of the Cuisenaire-Gattegno approach being trialled in primary school, Fortran is the first reported study to reproduce Gattegno's findings at secondary level. The study was part funded by the Sutton Trust. The result is a successful proof of concept and a step change in the understanding of teachers and learners.

Download file "s212_7.08IaBe_Press Release.pdf"


ATM Early Algebra Session

The attached presentation was discussed at the annual conference of the UK Association of Teachers of Mathematics (ATM) in Sheffield on Wednesday 3rd April 2013. The video links in the presentation are as follows:
Download file "s207_3.04IaBe032713SessionC2.pdf"
For more on the colour codes see Trivett, The coloured sticks. Professor Trivett served as Chairman of the ATM during its first decade. My slide 7, Cui unfolding, refers to page 193 (web 201/208) of the ebook Gattegno's Common Sense of Teaching Mathematics. Click here for the background to Sociality Mathematics CIC and the Tizard project.


Importance of Primary Maths

Recent results in a paper by John Jerrim and Alvaro Choi suggest that, although average math test scores are higher in East Asian countries, this achievement gap does not increase between ages 10 and 16. They conclude that reforming the secondary school system may not be the most effective way for England to ‘catch up’ with the East Asian nations in the PISA math rankings. Rather earlier intervention, during pre-school and primary school, may be needed instead.

Download file "qsswp1303.pdf"


Spotted in Cyberspace

The role of Cuisenaire rods with Gattegno's textbooks is the subject of a recent blog exchange. Readers can experience this themselves by visiting the tizard widget.


Maths as language

''The growing importance of maths shows that we need to do more to make sure that children speak that language too ...... the only way to create the next generation of Turings and Lovelaces is to make fluency in the universal language of maths our top priority.'' So says Education Minister, Elizabeth Truss in her speech at the North of England Education Conference. In defining what fluency and arithmetic proficiency mean the NCETM cite the work of the Tizard network as their sole example of best practice. More on the Tizard cohort 6 can be found at the NCETM website, where a case study of four years exposure to the Cui curriculum is described by Caroline Ainsworth.