Fun Manipulatives for Hands On Math

We all know that math can be a pretty boring subject. We can all remember doing page after page of math problems to learn a new skill. However, in order for your child to fully understand the math they are learning, we need to make math both fun and interesting. One easy way to make math fun, especially for younger children, is to use a variety of manipulatives. Manipulatives are simply objects used to teach a math concept in a more concrete way.

Manipulatives for Place Value

To use different objects to teach place value, you just need three different sizes of objects. You want a small object to symbolize the ones place, a medium size object for the tens place, and a larger object for the hundreds place. You also should have at least 10 to 20 of each object if you are going to show renaming when adding or subtracting. For example, you could use small cereal pieces for the ones place, pretzel sticks for the tens place, and graham crackers for the hundreds place. Another idea is to use popsicle sticks for the ones place, a bundle of 10 popsicle sticks for the tens place. This works especially well when using the popsicle sticks to add or subtract. Then your child can take a bundle of 10 apart when renaming for subtraction. They can also form another bundle of 10 to rename in addition.

Manipulatives for Fractions

When looking for fraction manipulatives, you want something that can easily be divided into sections. Some candy bars come already divided up into sections so you can easily break off a part to write the fraction for it.  Any small items such as buttons, blocks, or beads that come in two or three colors can be used to teach a fraction of a set. A napkin makes a great manipulative when introducing equivalent fractions. You can unfold it and color one section to show one-fourth. Then refold it and fold it in half. When you open it up you should have eighths which will give you two-eights colored. You can keep folding and reopening to get a different colored fraction each time.

Using Dice

Probably one of the items that children love to work with in math is a set of dice. You can pick up a pack of 5 or 6 at a dollar store, and they work for so many math concepts. Children can roll the dice and add, subtract, or multiply the two numbers. For older children they can roll two, three, or four dice and write the number down. Then have them re-roll the dice to find their second number to work with.

The best part about using manipulatives is that not only do children enjoy it, but they also make math more concrete. This means that it becomes easier for children to understand and remember. So next time you prepare to introduce a new concept or go over something your child is struggling with, look around your house. Find something your child can hold and move around while going over the math skill. You might be surprised by how much it helps! What other items do you use as manipulatives?

Photo by: Jimmie

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