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# What Math manipulatives are a must?

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We are getting ready for first grade, but I'll have at least 3 coming through school, so I'd like to start building our resources.

What are some good things to have on hand for teaching math in these early years?

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An abacus and cuisenaire rods.

An abacus is great for calculating - in a way that promotes understanding of place value and how the traditional algorithms work. Cuisenaire rods can be used to teach or illustrate just about every concept from one-to-one correspondence to basic operations to fractions to negative numbers. You can even use them to provide a physical way to model and manipulate equations (a la Hands-On Equations).

I've already started using both with my dd3, and I'm very excited about the possibilities.

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We get the most use out of play money and Unifix cubes. I used beans for counters when he needed them or even goldfish crackers. I also laminated a 100 chart which has come in handy on occassion.

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Some attractive, fun to use counter. We used Fantastic Frogs, bears are common. You could use a themed set like bugs, barnyard animals or vehicles. You could even use army men or Lego mini figures. The main thing is that you will want about 20 of them so you can practice adding and subtracting. You could use squares or discs but the fun character may make the kids want to use them. (My middle son thought that math was a cool new game.)

Play money, especially pennies, dimes and dollars to teach place value. You could also use a cup of real money (which might be less expensive than some of the play money out there). We've also gotten great use out of a simple play cash register.

We've enjoyed foam pattern blocks.

An inexpensive abacus from Ikea was useful.

I love to buy manipulatives, but this is what I've gotten the most use out of.

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I love manipulatives. We have eight big plastic drawers full of them! :D

Basics:

Something to count (bears, frogs, cubes, beans, whatever)

Base 10 blocks

Yardstick, meter stick, ruler

Fraction tiles (circles or bars)

Set of Cuisenaire rods and 1-inch graph paper

Geometric solids set

Clock with an hour hand that moves when you move the minute hand

Calendar

Balance

Dice (as many different novelty ones as you can get - die inside die, 10-sided, giant foam, etc.)

Hundred number chart and markers (beans, bingo counters, etc.)

Whenever you can afford it, get the wooden ones (base 10, Cuisenaire, solids)

Nice extras:

Gallon/quart/pint/cup containers

Dominoes

Abacus

Geoboard

Pattern blocks

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Out of all the manipulatives we have (and it's a lot) the only two that we have used the most is a clock & money.

We have all sorts of rods, cubes, bears, abacus, and more. Tubs from Saxon, Right Start, MUS etc.

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Base 10 blocks are by far the manipulative we have used the most.

I also like with geared hands. The hour hand moves when you turn the minute hand.

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Cuisenaire rods. The single best manipulative to my mind.

A set of ten Base-10 "flats", 10 cm x 10 cm blocks that are in the same scale as Cuisenaire rods, and so can be "combined" with C Rods and used as 100 values. However not using the base-10 "unit" blocks (with are single "ones" cubes which encourage "counting) and instead using the C Rods for units, and the "Orange C Rods for "tens" place.

If you take the time to learn how to use it, the AL abacus from Right Start.

A Geo-board with rows marked a, b, c, d, e and columns marked 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (you will need to mark these yourself as they are not sold this way) helps a child learn "rows and "columns" as well as coordinates (make a shape from A1, c5, and e1 for example) and shapes. And motor skills.

Right start "place value" cards and base-10 cards.

Home-made cards with tally stick values, and others with red dots in two rows of five (assuming ten in total) That confusing so, ten looks like (except close together):

.....

.....

Seven looks like:

.....

..

A flap book.

An inequalities (>) sign written on an index card that can be flipped the correct way when two values are presented to a "pre-writing" stage child with C. Rods. So they can show (and say) 6 is "less" than 7, or 7 is greater than 6 depending on the order of the rods from right to left.

Do you call Right Start game cards manipulatives?

No counting bears.

Bill

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I love math manipulatives, but the ones that have seemed to click the best for my DC are the abacus and base 10 blocks (we have up to a 1000 cube). Maybe because they click best for me, too. ;)

My Ker is using popsicle sticks for daily counting # of days in the school year and bundling when we get to a 10 -- there's a tens jar and a ones jar for storing. We show the number on the abacus and find it on the hundreds chart. Materials may be important sometimes, but application is often more important, imho.

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like the kind RightStart makes. Each row has 2 colors (5 and 5) and the colors switch after row five. It allows DC to really see numbers. We used it almost daily for the early years and will still pull it out to illustrate problems that are confusing.

I also like the place value cards made by RightStart. They have the numbers 1-9, then 10-90, 100-900, and 1000-9000. You can stack the cards to "make" a number (e.g., stack the 4, 30, 600, and 2000 cards to make 2,634). It is a very visual way of showing how a large number is really made up of many numbers.

And last but not least, Legos. They serve as a million purposes for counting, sorting, grouping, fractions, showing geometric relationships, you name it!

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Clock with an hour hand that moves when you move the minute hand

Any recommendations?

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The alabacus (Right Start) is hands down the best math manipulative I've seen. That said, I'm not using it for K/1 math with DD the Younger because she can't resist the temptation to stage epic battles between blue and yellow. It's too much of a distraction for her, so what we're using borders on the stark.

Cuisenaire Rods (Miquon)

Hundreds flats and a cube

place value cards

tally sticks

geoboards

geometric solids

Polydron (both kids love this)

measuring implements (scale, rulers)

we make our own weight sets when needed using the scale

we make our own calendars

a variety of dice

Money box

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Any recommendations?

Yeah--I pull the one down from the wall in the bathroom and use it. The kids love it that it's a real clock. (Just be careful to set it correctly when you put it back on the wall, or you'll be frantic the next morning when you're trying to get ready and think you're reeeaally late!)

And we use real money, too. (The change anyway.) I get a handful of change and have my ds add it up. He loves it because it's real. I don't think he'd be as excited if it were plastic.

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Most of what we use has been mentioned above (though I'll hit our highlights below again), but I don't believe anyone mentioned dominoes. They've been fantastic for understanding and practicing number bonds. So a domino with 4 dots on one side and 5 on the other makes 9, as does the domino with 3 and 6 dots. I'd also agree with dice, as many sides as possible.

Um...did you want to know about M&Ms? They're a very popular manipulative choice around here. :D We can use different colors to help with number bonds as well.

We use real coins for money stuff, and our clock doesn't have the minute hand move with the hour hand. I totally concur that that would be much, much better!

We have a bucket balance scale complete with plastic colored bears. The bears don't get much use (at least not for mathematical purposes), but the bucket scale is awesome.

The base ten set has been very helpful. We also use Cuisenaire rods.

Both girls just love geoboards (thanks, Spy Car!).

We just got the game Sum Swamp for Christmas, and it seems to be a hit, too.

HTH!

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Clock with an hour hand that moves when you move the minute hand

Julianna, it doesn't look like the hour hand moves when you move the minute hand. Can you confirm whether is does or not? I would really appreciate it!

Yeah--I pull the one down from the wall in the bathroom and use it. The kids love it that it's a real clock. (Just be careful to set it correctly when you put it back on the wall, or you'll be frantic the next morning when you're trying to get ready and think you're reeeaally late!)

Pulling one down from the wall is a great idea, unless you live in my house! :lol: We only have one clock (well, we have digital clocks like alarm clocks and the microwave) and it is one of the ones that sets itself using a satellite. If you mess with it it can take a couple of days to get to the correct time. I could use my watch, but that seems too small.

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The RightStart AL Abacus!

We have the official wooden one, but also just made our own last night. It's important to have 5 dark, 5 light, and then switch them at 50. Just gather up some popsicle sticks, 10 tiny dowels, pony beads, binder clips and glue.

Speaking for PreK-1 ages, we also use counters (can be anything, from M&Ms to little wildlife creatures that we're using), geoboard... We're going to be getting into money and time, so money and a clock (like the ones descibed) will be helpful.

The others have listed great manipulatives! One popular one that we're no longer using are the Cuisenaire rods. I have them and a few books to use with them, I should look into them again...

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Whenever you can afford it, get the wooden ones (base 10, Cuisenaire, solids)

For what it's worth, I have the plastic (non-linking) and wooden Cuisenaire rods, and I think they're both really nice. The plastic ones don't feel cheap at all -- they're solid and have a nice smooth finish. The colors are also brighter and more consistent than the wooden ones. On the other hand, the wooden ones are better for building things because they aren't as slippery. And of course, one might prefer wood for environmental reasons.

I mention this because I would have expected the wooden ones to be substantially nicer than the plastic ones, but I haven't found that to be true. I don't think the plastic ones are in any way an inferior product to the wooden ones, they're just a little different from each other.

I got an amazing deal on the wooden ones (they were actually less expensive than plastic ones would have been), but I think I would probably be just as happy with the plastic ones.

As for the original question, manipulatives we use here include:

Cuisenaire rods

coins (real)

M & M's

Pattern blocks

Small colored magnets (on a magnetic whiteboard)

Dominoes

other miscellaneous household objects

I'd say if I could pick only one thing, I'd get Cuisenaire rods, but it's nice to have some variety.

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For first grade this year I have used mostly my Froggy Counters (though any kind of counters works, but froggies are fun), money and unifix cubes.

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I have just about every math manipulative known to man. The ones I use most are:

counting bears (preschool-1st)

balance scale (preschool-2nd)

Right Start AL Abacus (preschool-4th)

100 chart (preschool-4th so far)

Ones that are nice/fun to have:

tanagrams

pattern blocks

cuisinaire rods

ones, tens, hundreds cubes

:001_smile:

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Julianna, it doesn't look like the hour hand moves when you move the minute hand. Can you confirm whether is does or not? I would really appreciate it!

I didn't order my clock from RR, but it looks just like that. When you move the minute hand, the hour hand moves. You can also move the hour hand freely.

HTH

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The AL Abacus, magnetic tangrams set, and the Learning Resources Rainbow Fractions tiles set get used the most at our house.

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The RightStart AL Abacus!

We have the official wooden one, but also just made our own last night. It's important to have 5 dark, 5 light, and then switch them at 50. Just gather up some popsicle sticks, 10 tiny dowels, pony beads, binder clips and glue.

Speaking for PreK-1 ages, we also use counters (can be anything, from M&Ms to little wildlife creatures that we're using), geoboard... We're going to be getting into money and time, so money and a clock (like the ones descibed) will be helpful.

The others have listed great manipulatives! One popular one that we're no longer using are the Cuisenaire rods. I have them and a few books to use with them, I should look into them again...

That is awesome! Thanks so much for sharing!

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Melissa & Doug has a really nice set of play money. It comes in a tray with everything sorted. We use this a lot with our CLE math lessons.

Albacus that has different color beads for every 5th#.

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I didn't order my clock from RR, but it looks just like that. When you move the minute hand, the hour hand moves. You can also move the hour hand freely.

HTH

Thank you! That is a great help!

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Help me understand why we need geometric solids? Is if just for the 3D effect? The only ones I see on Amazon seem to be pricey.

thanks

Angela

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Hidden
I love math manipulatives, but the ones that have seemed to click the best for my DC are the abacus and base 10 blocks (we have up to a 1000 cube). Maybe because they click best for me, too. ;)

My Ker is using popsicle sticks for daily counting # of days in the school year and bundling when we get to a 10 -- there's a tens jar and a ones jar for storing. We show the number on the abacus and find it on the hundreds chart. Materials may be important sometimes, but application is often more important, imho.

Great ideas!

Liz

Manipulative have been coming to great use here when my 8yo DSD encounters math problems with her homework! DS is also loving starting out with them too :)

Abacus

popsicle sticks

base 10 set

geometric solids (ours have a little hole on one side so you can fill them to illustrate volume)

geoboards

math balance

bucket balance

weighted numbers

we have bear counters with colored cups for sorting only

geared clock

play money ( got our in a little bucket on amazon for 6 bucks )

cuisinaire rods

hundreds chart

place value chart ( made a huge one on a poster board)

place value cards

Can you tell we LOVE manipulatives? :P

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Legos. 2x2 bricks specifically are hands down the most used math manipulative in my house.

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chocolate chips :D

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~ a white board & dry-erase markers. I like having a set of wet-erase markers too when learning place value because you can set up the columns with the wet-erase and plug in the values with the dry erase.

~ a base ten set

~ play money

~ some kind of counters. I found a set of 50 erasers at Dollar Tree that works beautifully, and the set contained three different styles if eraser. We used that when Dot was still learning addition to show to two values being added. (three fish plus two crabs equal how many animals?)

~ a geared learning clock

~ a ruler with cm and inches

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I bought the Saxon Math home school K-3 set used on Ebay cheaply. I haven't used all of it yet, but my DD has enjoyed playing with it and exploring.

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Melissa & Doug has a really nice set of play money. It comes in a tray with everything sorted. We use this a lot with our CLE math lessons.

Albacus that has different color beads for every 5th#.

Is the M&D money the same size as real money? I've been looking at this set, but couldn't tell. Also, does the wooden tray come with a lid?

thanks so much

Angela

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Is the M&D money the same size as real money? I've been looking at this set, but couldn't tell. Also, does the wooden tray come with a lid?

Yes and yes (a plastic slide-off lid). We love this set here.

We also love our Learning Resources cash register to play store.

Something else that wouldn't necessarily be considered a math manipulative (but it is, I promise) is a good set of wooden blocks.

The biggest hits that people have already mentioned are pattern blocks and the RightStart abacus. The RS games are a must here too. They may not technically be manipulatives but we sure love games. Set is our favorite that's not a RS game.