As adults, we forget that in order to understand math, kids have to learn some pretty highlevel 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 handson practice to math learning.
I have found that 12 simple tools make up a pretty complete firstgrade tool kit for handson 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. 
Coins or Play Money 
Counters Use these for counting, adding, subtracting, comparing numbers, early multiplication, and more. 
Dice Use dice to turn almost any math skill or concept into a game.

Fraction Strips Fractions are funnylooking numbers. Fraction strips turn them into a concept kids can understand.

Geometric Solids When kids are learning the names of the 3D solids (sphere, cylinder, cube, etc), these are a big help. 
Hundreds Chart A simple tool that packs a big punch. 
Number Line You'll need at least a 120 number line. The laminated ones are nice for write–on, wipe–off activities. 
Playing Cards A deck of cards is the perfect way to turn math practice into a superfun game. 
Timer How many problems can you do in 3 minutes? Ready? Go!

Unifix Cubes Linking cubes can be used to teach almost any basic math skill. 
White Board A small write–on, wipe–off board is a must. Magnetic is even better. 
With these essential math tools, your kids will be well on their way to handson 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 handson activities to teach and explain math, while Miss Brain's Cool Math Games mixes practice and play using dice, cards, and other math manipulatives.
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