• Laura Busby, M.Ed.

Essential Math Manipulative Tools

For the families that will be doing online learning, I wanted to give my recommendations for the math manipulative tools every household should have ready. Math is not just what is written on paper. That is only how we represent math. All these numbers and symbols are just the way we write mathematics. In reality, math is multidimensional, and kids should learn math using concrete manipulative tools. This process builds conceptual understanding that many never develop when students are taught using only symbols on paper. So, here is my list of math manipulative tools for home use.




KP Tiles

The KP Tens Frame is by far the best manipulative to teach addition and subtraction as well as develop the understanding of place value. Understanding our place value system is critical and is one of the foundational skills for all mathematics. Students must fully understand how we ungroup and group based on 10s. There is no better way to teach place value than with the KP Tens Frame tiles. They are more on the expensive side. However, I feel they are worth every penny. Link to buy



Interlocking Base Ten Blocks


If the KP Tiles are not in the cards, the next best option is interlocking base ten cubes. The interlocking is THE crucial feature. Base Ten blocks that do not have this feature can cause a lot of misunderstandings about place value, grouping and ungrouping, etc. Link to buy

Unifix Cubes


For a variety of math skills, Unifix cubes are an essential tool. I primarily use Unifix cubes to develop multiplication and division skills, as well as counting and skip counting. I also like to use different colors when working on word problems. If you only buy one math manipulative tool, Unifix cubes would be my recommendation. Link to buy




Fraction Bars


Fractions are often the number one concept that students, and even adults, do not fully understand. Using fraction manipulative tools is essential to developing a conceptual understanding of fractions. I prefer fractions rods over fraction circles. I also really like the structure of this particular set. Having a container helps with building a more robust mental model. Link to buy




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