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Manipulatives for Math

Compiled By: cawc

Here are some great things to use/make as a manipulative or game piece in the classroom.

cheap manipulatives
Posted by: jem

I have lots of manipulatives that we sort, count, make sets with,graph, pattern etc..

Erasers in various shapes( hearts, stars, bugs..)
Mixed nuts (with the shells still on)
Beans.. like from 16 bean soup dry mix.. or spray painted limas
Spray painted rocks
shaped sponges
small toys such as dinosaurs, cowboys,insects, astronauts that come in tubs , jars or packages
diecut shapes
sea shells
plastic beads or gems
match box cars
Kid's meal toys
Mardi Gras necklaces
stickers on cards..laminated
felt board pieces
jingle bells
colored craft sticks
small balls
rings.. I cut the ring part off of bat and spider rings, for instance
colored cotton balls
milk jug lids is or place stickers on them
craft buttons
pom-pom balls
decorative soaps
small cake decorating pieces..babies, musical instruments etc..

The possibilities are endless. I keep an eye open for clearance items, garage sales etc..

At craft stores, buy garlands of acorns, leaves, candy etc.. and cut apart to make manipulatives. Buy after a holiday on sale and save for the next year!

Buy party favors on sale, too.

Posted by: Ford Campbell

I bought a CASE of pennies from the bank...$25.00 for 2,500 pennies, which make great math manipulatives...they form into nice neat arrays for multiplication, and it's easy to store hundreds in little trays that can be put out on tables in seconds. The kids seem to love working with real pennies too, and nothing is cheaper than a penny a piece!

math manipulatives
Posted by: moe

One item that I recently purchased and frequently use is a set of large magnetic coins. We use them to add a penny/day for our "days of school" count. Also, when we did our money units it was easy for the kids to see them from all corners of the room (overhead coins are sometimes blurry)

Also, keep it simple. My very favorite math manipulatives are regular decks of playing cards. I have dozens of easy, motivating card games that reinforce basic math skills. And the best part is that the kids can go home and play these same games with their own decks of cards and their own families.

math manipulatives
Posted by: maryellen

A lot of the math manipilatives I have been able to collect really cheaply. My kids really like using my key collection. Most of those are from friends' and families' junk drawers. Any place that has a busy lost and found has tons of keys too, like a recreation centre, neighborhood newspaper, motel. You can sometimes make another junk box from the different key tags. I also have collected lots of different lids and bottle caps (not from beer - they hold the smell too long). If someone you know plays bingo, the colorful lids from bingo daubers are thrown away at the bingo hall. From a craft store, pompoms are quite cheap, so are buttons. A local church thrift store sells leftover clothes by the pound for rags, but has to take the buttons off first - and they give those to me. Colorful stones from aquarium supplies or for filling vases, bags of mixed nuts or pasta from the grocery store work well for patterning and counters. Playing cards and bread bag clips can be donated all year. Poker chips, eraser pencil toppers, bags of toy animals can be relatively cheap. Also, the boys especially liked the box of real nuts and bolts from the hardware store. I included my own collection of stir sticks (from my mis-spent youth) and my sons contributed their soccer and hockey medals after they grew up. I also let my class parents know some of the things I could recycle from their junk drawers and empty margerine and yogurt containers, and got quite a bit of help that way. I put the child's name on a poster by the junk boxes as a thank you. Hope these ideas help.

cheap manipulatives
Posted by: maryellen

More ideas; old keys (each of your friends has a handful in their junk drawer, and I got a lot from the lost and found department of our local newspaper), colorful craft department buttons (check WalMart) farm or jungle animals from the dollar store, beads (craft dept or cut up one of those car seat covers) medals (talk to friends whose children played soccer or ball) seashells, poker chips, colored craft sticks, playing cards, pompoms (the favorite). When school starts, tell parents what you're saving and ask them to contribute too.

Water Bottle Lids
Posted by: cawc

I take a bottle of water with me every day to school. I realized how great the lids would be for game pieces/manipulative. They are great size. I would try to remember to keep them and I quickly grew a huge collection.

How can you use them for game pieces if they are all clear? Use different colored permanent markers to color the tops.

Another idea I found for the lids was to put different operation labels on top ( + - X / ). You could easily make a game with math problems and instead of having a spinner etc, put the lids in a non see-through bag and pull one out to see where you get to move on the gameboard. Then answer one of the questions from the pile labeled with that operation. I hope this makes sense.

You could also easily write the letters of the alphabet on top and make a center activity with them.

The possibilities are endless.

Pop Tabs
Posted by: cawc

Does your school collect pop tabs? Our did this year, but another great thing to use pop tabs for is a manipulative. They are small and light weight- just make sure they are not sharp for some reason.

If you have children that like to drink coke out of the old glass bottles. The lids are great for manipluative use as well. They are cute and fun.

Magic Math Jars
Posted by: cawc

When I was interning, I saw a center in a 2nd grade classroom titled: Magic Math Jars.

They removed the label off of a baby food jar. Then they filled the jar with water and added food coloring and glitter. They they placed dice in the jar.

Since this was second grade, they used two. Depending on the level of math you teach, you could add more to make it meet your needs. The students would shake the jar and then look at the bottom to see the number. I thought this was a great way to make using dice more fun with games!

Posted by: Joan

I'd say base ten blocks and place value charts are excellent tools in learning multi-digit addition and subtraction. I also found this at a website for you:

Some of the most frequently used math manipulatives in a fourth grade classroom are:

-- unit blocks (also called Deines Blocks), used in place value explorations, concrete representations of the four basic number operations, and geometry explorations (area, perimeter, volume),

-- multicolored 1 inch cubes and squares (area, perimeter and volume studies; probability -- combinations and permutations),

-- power blocks (based on powers of 2), used for patterning, geometry explorations, and fraction activities,

-- pattern blocks (various geometric shapes with size relationships), used for patterning, geometry explorations, and fraction activities,

-- fraction charts and pieces, used for concrete representations of equivalencies, and practicing basic operations,

-- tangrams (used to study shapes in geometry),

-- measurement tools (tape measures, yard sticks and meter sticks, protractors, assorted gram weights and balances, bathroom scales) and number lines, used for size explorations and practicing the basic operations, and calculators, used for patterning (to remove the tedium from complex calculations, and to allow students to make generalizations and inferences about the results of calculations) and problem solving (to allow students to focus on the operation, and the reasonableness of their result).

pasta manipulatives
Posted by: JMR

Try and use pasta shells or the tube pasta- rigatoni, I think. Take rubbing alcohol, food coloring and as many large or extra large ziploc bags that you want for the various colors.
Take one large or xl bag and place a little rubbing alcohol (2 quick spills) and maybe 5 food coloring drops one color. Add pasta, seal the bag and shake. Make sure color is distributed throughout the pasta, you may need to add a little more food coloring or even rubbing alcohol to make the color stick. Be sure to spread dyed pasta out on a paper towel to dry overnight. Continue with various colors. Be sure to use a different bag for each color. Good luck- hope this helps! My kids enjoyed this hands on activity.


math manipulatives
Posted by: Lizzie3

I teach third grade. My students love to use "edible" manipulatives. Every year when I introduce multiplication as repeated addition, I hand out bags of fruit loop cereal to everyone. They use them to sort out groups in order to solve problems. When finished, each student is given some "shoestring licorice" on which to string their fruit loops. They love making "candy necklaces" at the end of math class. I also use elbow macaroni(uncooked of course, ha ha) as easy inexpensive counters.

Edible perimeter and area?
Posted by: cawc

Food is a great way to bring an inexpensive manipulative into the classroom. BUT- you wouldn't really want to use them more than once. ick.

One idea I found on a website was using cheez-its for perimeter and area. When the kids are done with their lesson they can have a fun snack.

Of course you could always use them for arrays, division, subtraction and everything else.

teaching w/food
Posted by: cdg

Another thing to keep in mind of thinking about teaching with food would be religious beliefs about wasting food.
We have used colored cereals, colored cookies, and trail mix things as manipulatives for counting, grouping, sorting and graphing. Each child gets his own pile to work with & gets to eat it when done!
We have used cheerios strung on yarn or pipe cleaners as fire hoses during our fire prevention unit.
We made apple sauce & apple crisp with the apples we picked at the orchard field trip as well as compared colors, sizes, etc.
Chocolate bars are often used to introduce and explain the concept of fractions.
Cooking, with it's weighing and measuring is good for math activities & the baking (rising, blending, etc.) is good for science study.