Disclosure: I am a blog ambassador for Lakeshore and am compensated for my work. I received product free of charge, but all thoughts and opinions on the best math manipulatives for home learning are 100% mine.
Does the idea of math with your child give you the cold shivers?
I get it. Math wasn’t my thing as a kid and the idea of teaching it to students (back in my teacher days) gave me pause. How do I help children form deep, meaningful relationships with math?
How do I share this information without just telling them what to do, how to do it, or that the right answer is probably in the back of the book?
You do this with manipulatives.
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Math comes to life with tools. We have to find the right tools to help our children see math, feel math, and experience math. In the education world, we call these tools manipulatives.
Instead of fumbling around trying to explain topics, teach concepts, or piece together learning, let’s use the right tools and help make math something our kids (and us) can enjoy.
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But why… WHY do we need manipulatives?
Math is best taught with hands-on learning. Sure, the kids can “show their work” on a worksheet, but the real learning happens when they do math with their hands and they see it… really see it.
Math can often be very abstract – it is, after all, symbols representing different groups or functions or ideas… it’s high level stuff even from the very beginning.
When we invite children to work with math using their hands, we bring math into something concrete. Suddenly, they can see the group. They can process the function. They can touch the ideas being explained.
Math manipulatives change everything.
What are the right manipulatives for learning?
You don’t need the sun and the moon. You don’t need a classroom closet full of manipulatives to help yourself out at home…
But a few right supplies can make the difference – the difference between math struggles and math successes.
Just like when I was a teacher, I get my math manipulatives for my own children from Lakeshore Learning. Lakeshore products are the best – plain and simple.
There’s a reason they were my first stop for classroom supplies and my first stop for supplies for my own kids – whether toys or learning materials. Lakeshore products stand out.
The best math manipulatives for home learning
I’m breaking down my favorite manipulatives and how we use them to support math learning at home (whether that’s remote, homeschool, or homework).
I own all of these – I use them with my kids, I had them (or other versions) in my classroom, and I know how important they are for teaching kids at home.
It’s not easy making math come to life out of thin air – but these tools, these math manipulatives for home learning – they change math into something fun and understandable.
Arguably the most-used manipulative in US classrooms, the Unifix cube is an important staple for a reason.
With Unifix cubes, children have a hands-on way to:
Unifix cubes span quite a math spectrum. When classroom teachers need to quickly explain an abstract math concept using concrete materials, they almost always reach for the Unifix cube.
BONUS: This is a fun toy. Yes, toy! Kids in classrooms (and my house too) choose to PLAY with Unifix cubes. They make great light sabers, designs, long lines, etc. Playing with a math manipulative is a great way for kids to explore with math in an open-ended way that supports the ability to create their own learning.
Here’s another manipulative that doubles instantly as a toy: the bug counters.
They come is 4 colors, 3 sizes, and 3 styles – and kids are drawn to playing with them. Kids instantly see the play potential in a bin of bugs, but how do they support teaching math at home?
The counting bugs are so important as:
- Generic math counters (to represent abstract numbers)
- Measuring with non-standard items
- Sorting and classifying (identifying attributes)
These bugs are a great way to show math in a fun, playful way and to also invite children to play with math.
A must for kids learning addition and subtraction.
Here’s how: Take 7 double-sided counters and toss them on a table. Sort them by red-side-up or white-side-up. Is it still 7 counters? How many are in each group? (ex: 4 and 3)
That’s hands-on learning of addition, how 7 is always 7 of something, and how combining groups creates a larger group.
Here’s another way: make a group of 8 red and a group of 5 white counters. Ask the child to combine the groups… but first, regroup into tens and ones. This simple lesson has a huge impact in future math learning – and it all hinges on the double-sided counter.
These counters are crucial in building fluency with addition and subtraction, and understanding addends / parts.
Playing with shapes is critical to kids fully understanding and grasping this first geometric concept.
Nothing helps form a relationship with shapes, patterns, and symmetry quite like the wooden pattern blocks – another staple of classrooms around the country.
With pattern blocks, children have a chance to manipulate shapes, build spatial awareness, and experiment with shape orientation all in a fun, hands-on, play-based way.
When teaching, we use pattern blocks for:
- Geometric patterns
- Identifying fractions
- Shapes (spatial awareness)
- Counting and addition (whole numbers and fractions)
BONUS: When we expose young children to pattern blocks as a toy to play with, this grows their natural understanding of patterns, fractions, and symmetry in the large designs kids create.
This is yet another chance for children to learn on their own volition using a manipulative as the tool for their play and learning. They learn so much from pattern blocks before they’re ever asked to use them for math…
Another standard for all those times kids need to count it out, show, represent, manipulate, transform, or put a number into a tangible form.
That’s where these little colored chips come into play.
Translucent color chips are a great basic in the world of hands-on math. They’re easy to count with, to add with, subtract, group, and pattern with.
- Need 10 objects for a math problem? Grab some chips.
- Need to make 3 groups for an assignment? Show it with chips.
- Need to find out how to separate a number into smaller parts? Do it with chips.
Colored chips are like the “catch all” of math manipulatives. They come into play often – and thought they are small. They are a mighty manipulative to own.
It can feel overwhelming to teach math at home… but it doesn’t have to be
Owning the right math manipulatives for home learning can take math off the workbook or computer screen and back into the hands of the child…
These manipulatives have a way of making the most abstract concepts into tangible and attainable learning. Added bonus, these learning tools are fun for kids to play with.
And when kids are playing, they’re finding the highest form of learning they can: learning they discover on their own.
Lakeshore Learning will always be my go-to spot for school supplies and toys – and it’s been that was for me since 2005. The quality, the products, it’s spot on for finding the best toys to teach and play with.
Looking to grab some math manipulatives? Use my COUPON CODE 2525 at check out to GET 25% OFF a non-sale item at Lakeshore! Valid for one-time use in stores or online. Limit one coupon per customer. Not valid on items with shipping restrictions. Other exclusions may apply. See http://bit.ly/39YALq3 for details.. To learn more about Lakeshore, find them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube.