Math Manipulatives: Little Things That Make Learning Math Easier

As adults, we forget that in order to understand math, kids have to learn some pretty high-level concepts. Number and quantity, size, measurement, comparison, shape, proportion and volume are just a few of the concepts first graders are working on.

Kids need to experience these concepts in their world, with their hands and bodies, before math will make sense on paper. Math manipulatives—objects that teach about a math area—are one way to bring hands-on practice to math learning.

I have found that 12 simple tools make up a pretty complete first-grade tool kit for hands-on learning. Here they my favorites:

Click on the links above or the picture boxes below to get creative ideas for how to use these with your kids.

 Base 10 Blocks The best tool for helping kids understand, add, and subtract large numbers. Find out more.

 Coins or Play Money Essential for learning to count money and make change. Find out more.

 Counters Use these for counting, adding, subtracting, comparing numbers, early multiplication, and more. Find out more.

 Dice Use dice to turn almost any math skill or concept into a game. Find out more.

 Fraction Strips Fractions are funny-looking numbers. Fraction strips turn them into a concept kids can understand. Find out more.

 Geometric Solids When kids are learning the names of the 3D solids (sphere, cylinder, cube, etc), these are a big help. Find out more.

 Hundreds Chart A simple tool that packs a big punch. Find out more.

 Number Line You'll need at least a 1-20 number line. The laminated ones are nice for write–on, wipe–off activities. Find out more.

 Playing Cards A deck of cards is the perfect way to turn math practice into a super-fun game. Find out more.

 Timer How many problems can you do in 3 minutes? Ready? Go! Find out more.

 Unifix Cubes Linking cubes can be used to teach almost any basic math skill. Find out more.

 White Board A small write–on, wipe–off board is a must. Magnetic is even better. Find out more.

With these essential math tools, your kids will be well on their way to hands-on learning, and math will make a lot more sense for them.

Not sure exactly how to use math manipulatives? Hands On Math will show you how to use hands-on activities to teach and explain math, while Miss Brain's Cool Math Games mixes practice and play using dice, cards, and other math manipulatives.