Math manipulatives are arguably one of the best and most important tools to teach your kids the basics of numeracy.
But what are they, exactly? And how can you use them to transform your child’s learning?
Read on to find out.
What are math manipulatives?
Math manipulatives are items your kids can physically touch, move, and play with to help them understand math. They are, essentially, tools that allow kids to make sense of numbers in a hands-on, interactive way.
Examples of math manipulatives include things like counters, cubes, spinners, clocks, calendars, and anything else that helps to put a mathematical concept into a visual and physical form.
What’s great about math manipulatives, though, is that they don’t necessarily have to be a conventional tool. Popsicle sticks, cotton balls, and candy bars are just as useful for introducing your kids to the basics of math as, say, a ruler or a clock.
Why are manipulatives for math so important?
Research has consistently shown that using math manipulatives is one of the best ways of teaching mathematics to kids — because they offer a visual and very simplified way of learning math.
Whether it be through counters, cubes, or candy, math manipulatives can provide a visual representation of how math works in action, which is proven to boost a child’s ability to understand and internalize what they’re being taught.
And as well as simplifying the subject, math manipulatives also make it a whole lot more fun.
Kids enjoy playing with different objects; piecing together different patterns. And since enjoyment is proven to result in better understanding, it’s easy to see why math manipulatives are so important.
Math manipulatives in action — how to engage your kids with math manipulatives at home
Here’s a comprehensive, math manipulatives list to get you started:
1. Use counters to teach the basics
Counters are a great way of teaching abstract concepts in a visual and simplified way.
Start with a number of counters, and ask your child to add in and take away different amounts, one by one. Then, ask them to count how many counters are left after each addition or subtraction.
When it comes to multiplication, splitting the counters up into different quantities (say, three lots of five) is an easy way to teach your child how their times’ tables are, ultimately, just groups of numbers added together. Simple!
2. Use puzzles to teach patterns and shapes
Piecing together a puzzle will teach your child how shapes can fit together, and how patterns can form a bigger picture. This is a very important skill to have — it’ll help your child when it comes to solving problems in math class, such as having to work out missing pieces of a sum or labeling shapes.
Tangram puzzles are great for this, as they will familiarize your child with common shapes in math class, like triangles, squares, and parallelograms.
3. Use a geared clock to teach time
A geared clock is the kind you can position at whatever time you want. They’re specifically designed for kids and offer a really hands-on way to teach your child how to tell the time.
Sit them down and turn the hands to different numbers, and ask your child to tell you what the time is. You could also pass the clock to your child themselves, and give them a time to turn the hands to.
Top tip: get yourself a ‘write on’ clock, as they include a little space to write down what time the clock is showing at any given moment. You could also work backward and write in a time for your child to position, too.
4. Use colored counters and marbles to teach probability
Filling a bag with colored counters or marbles is a perfect way to teach your kids about probability and fractions. Use 2 red counters, 2 yellow, 2 blue, and 4 green, then teach your kids what the probability is of each color being pulled from the bag.
You can use our worksheets on fractions to help you here, but the general idea is that the red counter has a 2/10 chance of being picked since there are two red counters in a bag of ten.
This simple process will familiarize your kids with how fractions work and should give them a good head start when it comes to learning this topic in the classroom.
5. Use cubes to teach measuring
Our article on measuring for kids breaks this down in a little more detail, but using ‘non-standard units’ (like cubes, and other math manipulatives) is an ideal approach for teaching young minds about measuring.
Instead of using a ruler or a tape measure, get your kids to line up their cubes or building blocks against their favorite toys or objects around the house. This will introduce your child to the basics of measuring, as they’ll begin to understand that an object’s length can be estimated by how many cubes long it is.
This will make the transition to inches or centimeters far easier, as your child will already be familiar with ‘measuring’ things — albeit, in a non-standard way.
6. Use an abacus to teach counting
For very young children, an abacus (or counting frame) is a fantastic, interactive way to teach your children how to count. Start with one bead on the frame and pull in extras, as you count along with your child. You could also use this tool to teach adding and subtracting, by sliding beads away and adding new ones in.
7. Your secret weapon: candy and toys
Remember, math manipulatives can be whatever you want them to be — as long as they can be used to demonstrate something mathematical.
We’ve already mentioned that candy and toys can be used in place of more traditional math manipulatives, and they absolutely can be. In fact, if you’re struggling to get your child engaged in the process, this could be exactly what you need to get them involved.
After all, who doesn’t love being rewarded by eating the candy once they’ve counted it?
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Link will appear as What Are Math Manipulatives? 7 Must-Have Homeschool Math Tools For More Engaging Study: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, July 31, 2020