Homemade Math Manipulatives

Last week on my Facebook page, a question was asked that sparked a great discussion. A member of our FB community, Susan, was looking for ideas for math manipulatives that she could have parents donate, since her classroom budget was already used up. And wow! People contributed such fantastic ideas that I wanted to make sure to publish them here on my blog so that they can be used by many others!

So, here are some of the ideas for math manipulatives that people came up with. You can have parents donate the materials from home, and might even want to have some parents volunteer to make the manipulatives!

  • craft sticks with dried beans glued on them for groups of ten
  • mini erasers from the dollar store; can also be matched to themes
  • caps of water bottles; write numbers on them and use for equations/problem solving
{Here’s one idea for a bottle cap math activity from A Love for Teaching. Click here to see it.}
  • scrabble tiles
  • shoe boxes and coffee cans covered with craft paper to store manipulatives in
  • spinners, dice, timers, etc out of old board games
  • dominoes for practicing math facts (add, subtract or multiply the dots on the domino)
  • Popsicle sticks for grouping in tens or skip counting
  • poker chips as counters
  • cheap sponges from the dollar store; cut them to make “quiet” base 10 blocks
  • transparent egg cartons; cut the two end sections to make a ten frame
  • straws, buttons and Lego blocks
  • Put a toothpick on top of a marshmallow. Place Cheerios on the toothpick for to create numbers. Use this to practice place value.
{see more about this activity and download the recording sheet from Babbling Abby by clicking here}
  • lima beans; spray one side red and one side white; then shellac to make great counters
  • ask a local pizza shop for new boxes; great for making cardboard pizzas for learning fractions
  • matchbox cars for sorting, counting, etc
  • McDonald’s french fry containers for sorting
  • old board games such as Jenga can be used for fact practice
{Here’s an example from The Organized Classroom Blog. Click here to read the full post.}
  • ask each parent to send a bag of change; use for money practice
  • colored stones from flower vases
Hope this post was useful to you! Have a great day,


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