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Using Math Manipulatives: Starting Out Stage

No matter where you or your child falls on the love-hate spectrum, teaching math does not have to be an ordeal! One of the best ways to help make math more enjoyable for parent and student alike is to use manipulatives. That’s why it’s a great idea to go ahead and start this practice from the very beginning, using manipulatives to introduce math concepts. Consider these tips for incorporating math manipulatives into math training for your early learner.

Tips for the Starting Out Stage

Preschool - 1st Grade

During this stage, children learn that numbers actually represent objects, that shapes have names, and that patterns are part of life. Their understanding of math is very concrete, meaning they need physical representations of math concepts, otherwise known as manipulatives. But, that doesn’t mean you have to spend a great deal of money on special resources. Everyday items and routines work just as well as designated tools and resource. Here are some examples of math manipulatives for this stage:

  • Make chore time math time. Count plates as you set the table. Count the cups of flour you put in cookies. Count the pairs of socks as you fold laundry.
  • Use snack time for simple addition and subtraction. Say, “Three crackers and three crackers make six crackers.” Then, “You had six crackers, and you ate one. Now you have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 crackers.”
  • Give your child an egg carton and some small objects like buttons or pompoms. Show him or her how to sort them by color and then count how many of each color there are.
  • Practice writing numbers. For small children, write numbers with dashed lines for them to trace. Writing numbers in a pan of salt, rice, or shaving cream will give a multi-sensory experience.
  • Color-by-number is a great way to teach number recognition. If your child is still a non-reader, color the numbers in the key the correct color so they can visually match numbers and colors.
  • Play games like Chutes and Ladders, Hi-Ho Cherry-O, or number Bingo.
  • Ask your child to draw two houses, three trees, etc.
  • Count beads as you string them. Practice stringing them in patterns.
  • Get some shape stencils and show your child how to make different objects by combining shapes – a circle and a triangle make an ice cream cone.
  • Lay out a pattern of colored objects and ask your child what comes next. Now ask your child to make a pattern for you to complete.
  • Make a store in your kitchen and use play money to go shopping.
  • Use a balance scale to compare the weights of objects.
  • Put two groups of objects on the table and ask your child which one has more or less.
  • Talk about how much coins are worth and practice counting them.
  • Use connectable cubes to make groups of ten and demonstrate place value.
  • Cut shapes into halves and quarters and let your child put them together to make a whole.

With five kids in their teen and early adult years, Rebecca shares the many ups and downs of parenting, homeschooling, and keeping it all together. As the Well Planned Gal she mentors women towards the goal of discovering the uniqueness Christ has created in them and their family and how to best organize and plan for the journey they will travel.

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