I have bought a lot of stuff over the years to make kids' learning easier and more fun: protractor, counters, dice, and so on. Some of these get pulled out just a few times a year, others a couple times a week, but there is one tool that gets used without fail every single day: the dry erase board.
Kids love to write on their own portable white board. There is less pressure to get everything right, or to make it look pretty the first time. Erasing is as easy as a finger-swipe, and there is plenty of room to solve and solve again.
Not to mention all the trees that are saved by getting rid of "scratch paper".
Here are just a few of the things kids use my magnetic wipe-off board for:
I do recommend getting a magnetic white board. This way, your board does double duty. A lot of great math manipulatives are magnetic, and sight words are way more fun when kids can use magnet letters and write the words right next to them.
When buying a white board, check out the reviews first. The cheapest white boards often don't erase well and get marker stains that don’t come off. Get a quality brand that will serve you well for many years. I recommend:
Fractions can be tricky to grasp. They are odd-looking numbers, and frankly seem kind of scary to kids (and, let's be honest—they are scary to a lot of adults, too).
But fractions are a lot easier when you can see the objects themselves, mess around with them, and get to know them intuitively. The idea of breaking a whole into parts makes sense, and kids can use these manipulatives to show fraction relationships very easily.
On the other hand, written fractions often don't make sense. Why should one number be written on top of another? Why is one-eighth smaller than one-fourth? Kids need to see the actual objects in order to understand this concept.
Fraction pieces can:
There is no trick to "using" fraction strips—just have them available when kids are doing any sorts of fraction problems. Use them to make fractions, compare fractions, or put fractions in order. As kids progress, they can use these same manipulatives to add or subtract fractions, find common denominators, and so on.
I do like having both strips and circles to show fractions in different ways, but if I had to choose one, I would pick fraction strips. It is easier to compare fractions by lining them up side by side, and kids seem to have an easier time using them than the circle version.
Here are my favorites, in order of preference:
Foam Magnetic Fraction Strips: I love this magnetic version. Kids can use them on a white board or refrigerator, or just use them on a table top without bothering about the magnets. They are colorful and a great size for small fingers.
Fraction Cubes: These are colorful linking cubes that let kids put fraction pieces together by linking the plastic blocks. Some versions include equivalent decimals and percentages on other sides of the blocks.
Plastic Fraction Tiles: An inexpensive, colorful set for helping kids visualize fractions. This set comes with a tray for lining them up.