On Denise Gaskins’ excellent site *Let’s Play Math*, I came across a mention of a “Super Rod,” in response to a question about how we would visually portray the number 10,000.

The correspondent was talking about drawing blocks. A 1 is a small square, a 10 a 10-long rectangle, a 100 a 10 by 10 square, and a 1000 a 10 by 100 rectangle. It’s clumsy to draw 10,000 if you’re going to be consistent in the way you draw the different blocks. But it’s do-able in actual blocks.

This box is from Uline, Model #S-4511. It’s 4” by 4” by 40”, or almost exactly 10 cm by 10 cm by 1 meter. I taped the ends, spray-painted it, then measured out the 10-cm intervals on the edges and drew the lines in permanent marker.

By the way, if you teach 4th, 5th, or 6th grade and use Base 10 Blocks to represent decimals, as I do, this comes in handy. Since the 5th grade standards require decimals to thousandths, the 1 cm unit cube is .001, the 10 Rod .01, the 100 Flat .1, and the 1000 cube is 1. So this Super Rod becomes the number 10. I’ve made several of these and use them in 5th as well as 4th grade.