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  • Writer's pictureKristy Johnson

Math Manipulatives at Home Made Simple

Updated: Apr 29

In the classroom, we have so many hands-on manipulatives to use at our fingertips for math. However, when we send students home with homework, review problems, or study guides, they do not always have these items. This poses a problem between the school and home connection. This post is all about different items that you can use for math manipulatives at home in a simple way. It is our job as educators to educate our parents on how they can use items at home with their children to practice skills. I encourage you to post about these ideas in your newsletter or even send parents the direct blog link to read! Let me know the response and their feedback or ideas! My hope is that you can find some useful information here to pass on to your families!

I have also created a FREE parent infographic to send home with your students so parents can see what can be used at home as well! This is perfect for Open House as a take home resource for parents.

1. Dice

Dice are literally one of the BEST math manipulatives that most families will already have laying around the house. They are usually found in board games and can be used for any of the basic operations! Here are some ideas:

  • Addition/subtraction

Roll the dice to create the numbers they will use for addition or subtraction problems. Have them write down the problems on paper, dry erase board, chalkboard or whatever is available and fun at home. (Grab this dice FREEBIE to use with the activity if you want!) Obviously, larger numbers can be created by multiple rolls of the dice - 3 digit + 3 digit would me 6 rolls or 3 digit - 2 digit)

  • Multiplication

Use the dice for single digit multiplication practice to help them become a multiplication master. Just like above with addition and subtraction, they could roll twice to get larger numbers for the problems. I would definitely encourage them to try this if they have their basic multiplication facts already mastered. Have you checked out any Code Breakers activities yet?! They are the BEST way to get students to practice their basic multiplication facts while having FUN!

  • Division

For division, simply have the student roll twice to create the dividend and once to create the divisor.

  • Multiply Fractions by Whole Numbers

Most upper elementary students are working on multiplying fractions by whole numbers in their class. Roll the dice twice to create a numerator and denominator, then roll again to find the whole number.

*Don’t forget to grab this DICE FREEBIE to send home with students for practice!

2. Restaurant Menus, Grocery Ads or a Shopping Catalog

These different items could either be found online or you could use printed copies. Have students practice with decimals, percents and budgeting. For example, to practice with a restaurant menu, add up the items that you might “eat” at the restaurant. Then tell the student that they need to figure out what to leave for the tip (tell them to make the tip 20% of the total bill). So they would simply take the total and multiply it by .020. This gives a fun twist on practicing decimals and percentages. In addition, it shows students how they really need to use this skill in the real world.

3. Paper Plates

Most of us have paper plates in our kitchen. Students can color on them to make different types of circle fractions. Need some other ideas for fraction practice in your classroom? Check these out.

4. Deck of cards

I hope everyone at least has a deck of cards at their house! Use the cards similar to the dice, but use numbers 2-9 or play fun card games like war (parents love this game too!) This would be a fun after dinner game!

5. Coins

Okay here is something that we all definitely have in our lives! Coins are perfect for skip-counting or practicing with decimals. Students can add the amount of money up in front of them by writing the amounts as decimals and adding it together.

6. Buttons or beads

Buttons and beads are easy to use for sorting and pattern activities. These would be especially great for younger students.

7. Lego Blocks

Most elementary and middle school boys will have legos at their house! Legos are actually really fun manipulatives to use to practice fractions. You can find more information on how I use legos for fraction practice plus my favorite fraction activities here. (One even includes chocolate-yum!)

8. Playdough

I think that almost all kids think playdough is fun, don’t they? Try making arrays or fraction models with play-doh at home. Students can remold and reuse the playdough for each problem given to them for homework.

9. Fruits or different sized balls

If students have measurement homework, fruits or different sized balls are perfect for practicing measurements!

Manipulatives Challenge

Next, challenge your students to find objects at home to use for their math practice and have them share with the class. It is always fun to see what real-life items they figure out that they can use. You could even connect this assignment to writing and have them write in their journal about what they found at home. This is a great way to get their creative minds thinking plus have fun!

What other manipulatives have you suggested that students use at home for math? Let me know in the comments!


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