Manipulative-based Math Activities - Learning Resources®
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Try These Manipulative-Based Math Activites

 Data & Probability | Grades PreK-2

Displaying data in graphs

Students progress to organize data in more structured formats. Tables, charts and graphs make understanding and analyzing numerical data easier. A bar graph is useful for seeing at a glance which data are biggest and smallest and for introducing range (the difference between the largest and smallest values).

Real life story problem:

Animals escaped from the zoo! Help the zookeepers find, group and count them. In a graph, keep track of the found animals.



NCTM Strand:  Algebra | Grades PreK-2

Missing addend equations

Children can easily find repeating patterns made of shapes. Values can be assigned to shapes to make the transition to identifying number patterns smoother for learners. When the link is forged, students will be ready to comprehend purely abstract number patterns.


Try it!

Assign a value to each pattern block shape. Then give students a missing addend equation made with the shapes. Students use a variable to represent the missing addend and then solve for it.


 Geometry | Grades PreK-2

Describing paths in coordinate geometry

Coordinate geometry involves students working with a series of coordinates. In this case, the coordinates are landmarks, which a student connects to create a path. Students can further develop visualization and spatial understanding by describing directions, distances, locations and representatives related to the path.

Real life story problem:

Marcus, a new boy in your class, cannot find the pencil sharpener! Help by giving him verbal directions to get from his desk to the pencil sharpener. Then, draw him a map using Color Tiles to represent landmarks in the classroom. (Use one of the Connecting People® to represent Marcus as he moves through the map).


Other visualizations & spatial manipulatives

  • Rainbow™ Premier Pentominoes
  • Tangram Blocks
  • Pattern Blocks
  • Geoboards
  • Graph Paper
  • Centimeter Cubes
 Measurement | Grades 3-5

Using elapsed time to pace an activity

The perception of the passage of time is relative; different people have different perceptions of elapsed time in different situations. Students need to internalize a sense of passing time. Measurement devices that signal elapsed time can help build this sense.

Did you know?: In addition to programmable flashing lights and 6 sound effects, the Time Tracker™ has a pause feature to allow teachers to temporarily stop the timer to answer a question or explain something.



Real life story problem:

Suki is taking an important test. She has 30 minutes to complete the math part, which is broken up into three sections. During the test, how can she make sure to spend enough time on each section to do her best, while still finishing all three sections in 30 minutes?

Other time manipulatives

  • Talking Clever Clock™
  • The Primary Time Teacher™ Learning Clock®
  • Primary Timer
  • Big-Digit Stopwatch
  • Write-On/Wipe-Off Clocks
  • Magentic Time Teacher™
  • Magnetic Learning Calendar
  • Bilingual Monthly Calendar Pocket Chart
  • Tabletop Timer Center
 Algebra | Grades 3-5

Creating, finding & describing patterns

Creative students love to make patterns, but even somewhat uncreative learners enjoy trying to stump their peers or figuring out the riddle of a pattern. Challenge an advanced student to describe a single complex pattern that involves several types of changes related to color, number, position and unfamiliar shapes or objects.

Did you know?: Each pentomino piece is scored into five units, which means that the 12 different pentamino pieces can be used to create any 2-D shape that has an area which is a multiple of five.


Try it!

A student creates a pattern of 4 sets using 3 pentominoes in each set. Then, another student finds and describes the pattern.

 Number & Operations | Grades 3-5

Adding fractions

When adding fractions, students must usually put them into like terms (by converting them into fractions with the same denominator) before adding them. However, students who stack up various fractional portions and compare them to a larger Fraction Tower® have a greater understanding of the addition of fractions and can determine the total at a glance.

Did you know?: All of the Rainbow Fraction® line of manipulatives uses the same color coding system to visually cue students. Regardless of whether you are using Rainbow Fraction® Tiles, Fraction Tower® cubes, Circles, Squares, Triangles, Connecting Circles or Picture Grids, all pieces represent the same fraction.


Real life story problem:

Juan has three incomplete building sets. He has 1/8 of the pieces of one set, 1/8 of another set and 1/4 of another. What fractional part of whole set does Juan have in total?

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