Talks for Primary School Teachers

A 2021 reprint of this seminal work by Madeleine Goutard is now available to buy on our website.

Originally printed in 1963, this series of articles was originally written in French as advice to French- Canadian teachers in Quebec Province while they were trying out the new approach (as it was at that time) to elementary mathematics.

As relevant now as it was then, this book is an essential for those who are new to the Cuisenaire rods.

“Most of these teachers experience a certain apprehension at plunging into a method which is so different from all they have known up to now……As all who have studied it will know, the Cuisenaire method is not merely a procedure to be followed blindly: it demands a positive reversal of the teaching attitude, and anyone who is keen enough to try it will no longer remain the same person.” (pg 2 Talks for Primary School Teachers)

This book is a lucid commentary on the teaching approach to be adopted with the Cuisenaire Rods, written by a gifted teacher whose work with children has been a source of inspiration for many. This text includes valuable practical suggestions for classroom work.

This book will be welcomed by everyone who teaches mathematics by the Cuisenaire-Gattegno method. For here we have down-to-earth advice and a great deal of help from someone who herself has a wide experience of the material. Psychologist and educationalist as well as a practising teacher, Madeleine Goutard has recognised many of the misconceptions and misunderstandings that can arise when a new approach is introduced. She deals with each of these with a constructive clarity which the reader soon recognises to be one of her most striking qualities.

The greater part of the book discusses the questions that spring to the mind of the newcomer to the approach, and to the teacher with some experience of the rods.

Questions such as:

  • Can children be introduced to the rods at any stage in their schooling?
  • Do they become too dependent on the material?
  • What is the role of memorisation?
  • How can children acquire a proper understanding of fractions? The author’s advice is at all times practical and thoughtful. She suggests solutions to classroom problems, but more than this, she gives us guidance on the approach itself. “Anyone who takes up the Cuisenaire-Gattegno method”, she says, “breaks with ingrained habit and acquires an attitude of research”.

This is not a textbook, nor an ABC of the rods, but a study in simple language of the Cuisenaire-Gattegno approach to mathematics teaching.