Chocolate Pretzel Counting Rods

Imagine a day with NO numbers! Sure, math class might be cancelled, but how could you take the schoolbus five miles to your house, or eat a double cheeseburger? Nope, any way you figure it, people everywhere count on numbers… But wait– did you know that not everybody uses the same system of numbers? In China, counting rods (sticks) were invented over 2,500 years ago. Even today, some people use these rods instead of digits!


There are two positions for each number. They are either written vertically (see the first row above), or they are written horizontally (see the second row above).

Make your own Chocolate Pretzel Counting Rods with a recipe that’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.


Prep time: 10 minutes

Yield: 12 positive rods and 12 negative rods

Difficulty: easy


2 small, microwave-safe bowls

Cookie sheet or large cutting board lined with wax paper


24 thick pretzel sticks

Cooking spray

2 squares semi-sweet baker’s chocolate

Chocolate sprinkles

2 squares white baker’s chocolate

Rainbow sprinkles


  1. Spray each microwave-safe bowl with cooking spray. Put two squares of semi-sweet chocolate in one bowl and melt in the microwave according to package directions.
  2. Dip 12 pretzels, one at a time, in the melted chocolate so that about an inch of the rod is covered. Roll in a plate full of chocolate sprinkles.
  3. Lay each dipped pretzel on the wax paper. These chocolate pretzels are the positive numbers.
  4. Repeat steps 1 to 3 for the white chocolate, using rainbow sprinkles instead of chocolate ones. The white chocolate pretzels are the negative numbers.
  5. Place the sheet of pretzel rods in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.


Math Appeteaser

The rods that are vertical are called tsungs (ZONG). The rods that are horizontal are called hengs (HENG). To get the hang of these hengs and tsungs, create the following number:  3,524

Thousands Hundreds Tens Units

  *Note that the units and hundreds are placed vertically and the tens and thousands are placed horizontally. Why do you think they are positioned this way?

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One Response to Chocolate Pretzel Counting Rods

  1. I love this idea. I will pass this along to my audience in a presentation I am doing on Brain Appropriate Practices for Math for School Age Children. Great Idea!

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