Manipulatives are small objects that help children understand mathematical concepts and develop their vocabularies. Children as young as two or three years old enjoy playing with manipulatives and by doing so, they learn.
I like using manipulatives with older children, too. Especially when they have trouble understanding a mathematical concept.
The following seven math manipulatives are great for teaching math concepts and vocabulary, as well as for imaginative play and exploration.
1. Pattern blocks. Pattern blocks can be used to teach everything from number sense, graphing, fractions and more. The introduce the concepts of color and shape.Googling for “pattern block templates” opens up your teaching possibilities to almost no end.
2. Duplo bricks. Slightly larger than Legos, these bricks help understand measurement, division, multiplication and more.
3. Interlocking cubes. These tools connect on all six sides and can be laced together. Interlocking cubes are great for patterning, counting, and operation skills, as well as small-motor skills and eye-hand coordination.
4. Base Ten Blocks. These blocks introduce skip counting, as there are tens blocks, hundreds blocks and thousands block. Children can begin understanding and building large numbers with these blocks.
5. Basic wooden blocks. These colorful blocks are perfect for beginning counting, patterning, teaching basic geometric concepts, colors, and building. They are also good for beginning measurement activities. You can measure objects by counting these blocks.
6. Cuisenaire rods.These are great for understanding math. They can be used to sort the shapes and sizes, as well as for building, addition or subtraction.
7. Simple materials we all have handy. Soda pop lids, small toys, water beads, keys, buttons, rocks, seeds, beans can all be used as manipulatives. I store such simple manipulatives in Tupperware containers and use them frequently to teach mathematical concepts. Here’s an example of “rock math.”