Kids learn by doing, which is why manipulatives are perfect tools for teaching and reinforcing math concepts. They are useful for hands-on, small group activities; and for letting students explore and develop reasoning and problem-solving skills.
The best math manipulatives allow students to build connections between mathematical ideas and hands on activities. They make math FUN! As a tutor, with many years of experience incorporating math manipulatives into my lessons, I appreciate how useful they are in helping me teach different math concepts. I enjoy watching children have “lightbulb” moments when they finally understand a concept thanks to the tools they are using. Manipulatives are useful in many ways, and come with several benefits.
1) They engage students, and increase interest in and enjoyment of mathematics as a whole—Students who were given the opportunity to use manipulatives have reported that they were more interested in math.
2) They build long-term interest in mathematics, which translates to increased mathematical ability—They use concrete objects to observe, model, and internalize abstract concepts easily.
3) They are a powerful tool for classroom assessment and reduce the achievement gap while raising performance levels—Problem-solving, patience, critical thinking, creativity, concentration, and more are just some of the skills that can be achieved. Students are more capable and competent when they regularly use manipulatives. It’s a chance for them to become independent thinkers.
Dice are a great tool to have on hand for math games and activities. There are many types available today, such as these dice in many colors. There are also different sized dice available, such as these large foam dice. Jumbo dice are great for rolling during a class game. They are also great for “flashng” to kids to have them call out the number shown. We suggest putting pairs of dice into small clear containers that students can quickly grab and shake while playing games. My favorite type of dice for teaching addition and playing games are the dice in dice.
Playing cards make useful math tools because they have numbers on them. They are used to teach addition and subtraction through games like addition “war” and subtraction “war”. Playing cards are in traditional decks that you can find at most stores or dollar stores. Teachers would benefit from a set of jumbo playing cards to use for lessons and demonstrations as they provide a large visual for kids.
Unifix or Snap Cubes
Unifix cubes are the colored cubes that connect in one way and snap cubes are colored cubes that can connect in different ways. Both can be used in many ways to teach many math concepts, such as patterning, place value, and measurement. Snap cubes are one of the most used math manipulatives. They visually demonstrate many number concepts, such as counting, grouping, adding, and taking away. Children love snapping the cubes together to make number “trains”.
Hundreds charts are important for teaching children to count to 100 in multiple ways. They are visual representations of numbers in order and are filled with patterns that children should be encouraged to find. Hundreds charts are important for whole-class lessons, independent practice, and games. My most used anchor chart on my wall is a hundreds chart, similar to this. We use these durable hundreds boards frequently. I also recommend having a mini hundreds chart visible on student work-spaces. These nameplates also have a ruler, number line, and addition table on them.
Place Value Blocks
Place value blocks are very helpful in teaching counting, number concepts, double-digit addition and subtraction. These concepts are more difficult to grasp and using these concrete manipulatives helps build understanding. We suggest have a large bin of of place value blocks similar to those below with enough for each student to represent the numbers you are learning. The magnetic set would be helpful for whole class demonstrations on a whiteboard. If you are teaching PreK or Kindergarten, consider introducing place value during calendar time with this counting pocket chart and straws.
When teaching concepts of time and the analog clock, using a large demo clock is a valuable tool. We love this clock because as you move the minute hand around the hour hand moves appropriately, which helps with teaching the placement of the hands. It also shows the 12 hours and the minutes around the outside. Encourage children to count by fives as the minute hand moves around the clock. They will learn that there are 60 minutes in one rotation of the hour hand. Provide children with their own small clocks, such as these, to practice with. To reinforce these skills, having a clock puzzle available is helpful.
Places You Can Purchase Math Manipulatives
We suggest buying the majority of your items when they go on sale or when you can purchase them at affordable prices through Amazon. Each type of manipulative listed above is linked to Amazon to help you create your classroom wishlist. You can sign up for Amazon Prime and get all of your materials quickly, no matter what the weight of your package.
There are many local places to purchase math manipulatives for low prices. Get creative and have fun searching for materials in your home or find them at the dollar store.