Make your own math manipulatives

It’s fun and easy to make your own math manipulatives. There’s no need to invest lots of money in these fun math helps. You can whip lots of these up in an afternoon, mostly with stuff you have around the house, and it’s fun to get the whole family involved. (These items can keep preschoolers busy too!) Decide what you really need, not just what your math program says you need. Then get busy and make your own alternatives to the pricey manipulatives.

  • Money for counting. Make change at your bank. For $5, which is about the same cost as the plastic coins from the teacher store, your kids can get the feel of making real change. Or let them count their piggy bank.
    lacing cards. You can recycle cereal boxes or large plastic lids. Cut into the shape you want and punch holes all around the edges. Use an old shoelace and let them go to town.
  • buttons, macaroni, beans, bottlecaps, candy pieces or anything small can be used for counting, sorting, predicting and quantitative measurements. Mini muffin tins are great with these. You can also use these for simple math operations, like adding and subtracting.
  • Make your own place value sheet on a paper divided into place values with a marker (in “landscape” position). They can lay the beans or candy pieces in the proper place value.
  • Color rigatoni or other large pasta with a little alcohol and food color. Lay them out to dry and then use some twine or yarn to string them together. (A little tape around the end like a shoelace will make stringing easier.) You can teach patterns and fine motor skills.
  • I found a small food scale at the dollar store. This is great for predicting and comparing amounts.
    Use your measuring cups and spoons to measure all sots of things.
  • I also got a ruler at Wal-Mart for 50 cents. And a fabric tape measure for a dollar. Kids love to compare and predict measurements. T-charts are simple for recording their results.
  • Make your own flash cards. There are free programs online or you can get out your markers and index cards and have a great time creating your own. You can make silly word problems too.
  • Another fun idea is to get two large tubs. Fill one with uncooked rice and use different size containers to see how many it takes to move the rice from one tub to another. Little kids really like to scoop the rice. You can keep preschoolers busy for a long time with some fun tools like a big spoon and a cup or some sand box tools.

Does your family have any fun, homemade manipluatives? Let me in on it!

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