Georges Cuisenaire was teaching at his school in Thuin in Belgium when he invented these now famous rods as a means of helping his pupils with their study of arithmetic. He made then a discovery now established as a vital component in mathematics teaching today. He found that by making use of children's natural inclination to play, and giving them an appealing material which demonstrated the relationships on which mathematics is based, it was possible to provide understanding for them all.
Many years passed before the work he was doing spread to other countries, but the use of the rods in schools today is probably world wide. The work started by Cuisenaire remained relatively unknown for twenty years or more until a meeting between him and a visiting lecturer from the University of London, Dr Caleb Gattegno, mathematician and lifelong educator, who instantly recognised its power and educational value. Gattegno's contribution was to develop the uses and applications of the rods, providing a new teaching approach and a completely revised curriculum for mathematics. His insight into the ability of children led him to the realisation that they are capable of far more than traditional teaching has ever produced; and his expectations have been borne out by children all over the world who have startled teachers with their remarkable grasp of mathematics.