10 of the Best Math Manipulatives For Classroom 2023

Manipulatives are physical objects that serve as hands-on teaching toys to help students solve mathematical problems. They are anything from blocks, shapes, counters, measuring spoons, spinners, building sets, sticks, or cut-out cardboard.

There are different kinds of physical models, but the best math manipulatives practice parts and shapes that serve as touchable tools to give excitement to abstract mathematical ideas. 

Building Blocks, Creative, Math Manipulatives, Colors, Toys

How Do Math Manipulatives Help Students?

Some pupils are hesitant or slow to apply and perform mathematical operations while interpreting mathematical images. This underperformance can cause a student to become demotivated and the worst is to feel that he or she is dumb.

In any math illustration, children can already start grasping ideas and manipulatives are playful tools that will help them understand those ideas in a more explanatory way. Sorting, distinguishing patterns, measuring, or the ordering of numerals using toys has been very effective in testing and confirming a conceptual understanding of math.

For example, playing play money interestingly teaches them how to solve daily computations. Blocks can develop their understanding of building patterns, shapes, and sizes. For many children, concrete examples that they can see, touch, and try by themselves provide support in dealing with math.

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Top 5 Editor’s Picks for the Best Math Manipulatives

Product Image Reasons to get it
100 Number Board
  • Large & multicolored boards
  • 12.5 x 12.5 x 1.4 inches tiles
  • Ideal for children ages 5+
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Fraction Circles
  • 166 pcs magnetic circles
  • Vibrant colored fraction tiles
  • Safe, easy to use, eco-friendly
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Melissa & Doug Abacus
  • Classic abacus counting toy
  • 10 wires with 10 beads each
  • Great for children ages 3 to 5
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Balance Weights
  • Adapts to Math concepts & STEM
  • Demonstrates early Algebra
  • Kids’ edition measuring 14″ across
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Dry Erase Pockets
  • Reusable dry erase pockets
  • Assorted neon colors
  • Write on & wipe off plastics
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Our No. 1 Math Manipulative for 2023

100 Number Board

  • Large and bright enough board to work and study on
  • Strongly introduces prime numbers, square numbers with and skip counting
  • Reinforces number counting – instilling fun and playful method of learning
  • The transparent tiles are easy for children to identify and use

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How to choose the best math manipulatives?

Math manipulatives are handy objects that allow students to explore a mathematical concept in a fun and hands-on approach. Through these physical models that students (especially children) can touch and move, they are able to explore possible solutions that help them solve problems.

Just like how architects or engineers use a prototype of a piece of equipment or models of a building, students likewise use manipulatives to form and shape an object leading to possible answers.

Math manipulatives can be bought in stores, made from any materials at home, or even those simple objects you have around the house such as BBQ or match sticks, pebbles, 0r cut-out colored papers.

Here are tips for effective math manipulatives:

1) FIND THE MATH RESOURCES THAT YOU BELIEVE IN

Given that logic underlies mathematics, it’s critical to comprehend the exact features you require in a math manipulative and how those features contribute to the outcomes you seek. Find out which of the various math materials will be most helpful to you in helping youngsters develop their arithmetic skills.

These questions are helpful:

  • What do you think are the best supplies that provide easy real-life examples to which children can relate?
  • Which, exactly, is the perfect math manipulative that can help simplify the methods of mathematics?

Finding the math resources you yourself believe in builds confidence that reflects in the way you teach. Not only it helps you caddy your students but it also helps them eliminate the fear of math topics and math teachers.

2) ATTRACTIVE TOOLS ARE VERY ENGAGING

I totally believe in this!

If you are continually awed at why kids love coloring books, the answer is because a color book promotes the idea of colors, shapes, and fun. This is also why many math manipulatives come in enticing shades of color – to win the attention of learners.

Using attractively designed and colored math manipulatives work in two ways: It illustrates mathematical solutions in a friendly and engaging way, and it makes the learning process interesting.

Children view the world through their own lenses. When kids are interested in what they are seeing, it makes it easier for them to apply what they have learned. Give your young students what will make them happy now that you have all this ability to do so, and you will benefit much.

3) GO FOR THE QUALITY OF MATERIALS

As a teacher, you understand the significance of children’s safety. Therefore, you can be sure that the manipulatives you give your students are of a high caliber if they pass your stringent inspection. Take a long view. When you pay close attention to details, you can locate durable school supplies. You will produce superior goods the more meticulously you work.

If the arithmetic manipulatives are well-made, it does not matter if you only have a few of them in the classroom; having high-quality tools is still beneficial. Make the most of each dollar since you are spending it to purchase these materials. Your money is being invested in your classroom.

Lastly, high-grade materials can last. So these manipulatives will still be available for use in the next year’s batch of new students. Don’t you feel the sentimental value?

4) GO FOR 100% SAFE FOR CHILDREN ALL THE TIME

For many kids, you serve as both a teacher and a second parent. Wow, what a privilege that is! As a result, you would love to do everything in your power to make sure that your pupils are safe in your classroom. Giving kids the opportunity to learn, socialize, grow, and acquire independence in a secure atmosphere is another objective of yours.

I suggest that you plan some time looking for supplies that are certified “Low- or No- Toxicity.” This measure is typically from the Art and Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) or the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

Some brands of board markers, for instance, have a stronger or “harsher” fragrance when used as an arithmetic manipulative. This is a sign that a given product can include substances that are hazardous to health. Instead, choose water-based markers.

It may take extra time looking for “100% safe for children” supplies, but you also know it only takes a single effort to find them.

Here’s a video that shows some of the students’ favorite math manipulatives in the classroom.

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10 of  the Best Manipulatives & Their Purposes

1) 100 Number Board

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This is a visibly large, bright, and interesting board that features numbers that are printed on the front of the board and supported by a blank grid on the back. This includes 100 numbered white tiles, 25 transparent blue tiles, and 25 transparent red tiles with a free activity guide.

The 100 Number Board by Learning Resources can be used to introduce number patterns, sequencing, and place value. You can teach children about skip counting, prime numbers, square numbers, and much more.

With the help of this 100 Number Board, it allows the development of motor and reading skills. Constant practice will eventually lead children to identify basic numbers and how to handle the pieces more easily.

You’ll see that the background is entirely brilliant yellow. To energize the conversation and pique the interest of contemplative minds. When your children are prepared for the challenge, you can have fun teaching and learning skip counting and recognizing patterns thanks to the fact that it comes with colored chips.

The back side of the tiles serves to reinforce number counting even if there are no printed numbers present. The 100 Number Board is a game that young children and elementary school students will never get tired of.

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2) Plastic Pattern Blocks for Early Math

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Those colorful shapes in circles, squares, triangles, rectangles, hexagons, or more are among the first learning manipulatives used for teaching Math. This type of pattern is also popular in improving logic and critical thinking skills.

The Plastic Pattern Blocks will help kids create shapes, puzzles, and other activities that help students in sorting patterns, identifying different shapes, sizes, and even names of colors.

With 250 pieces in a set, it features 6 different shapes and colors — perfect for a preschool classroom. You will enjoy giving your students hours of fun while competing for whoever creates the most imaginative creature or objects.

Learning Resources Plastic Pattern Blocks are made of hard plastic material so they are not easy to distort or tear up. Because they have some weight behind, it is quick and easy to put them in place. These manipulatives are a total package of bold colors that stimulate brains, make math more fun to learn, and with easy clean-up storage.

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3) Bugs Counters by Learning Resources

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Bugs Counters by Learning Resources bring early math concepts into fun adventures. Looks perfectly entertaining, this set includes 6 different backyard critters, including beetles, bumblebees, caterpillars, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and spiders.

Challenging as they may be, math concepts are proven easier to comprehend when accompanied by these creepy-crawly counters that playfully lead children on how to count, measure, sort, and compare. You will like the set that includes 72 counters in 6 shapes and 6 colors.

Made of rubber to ensure durability, they throw no smell so it’s just perfect for little learners. With a reusable plastic tub with a lid, you can store the miniatures in one safe place.

These Bugs Counters may be small but make great learning tools for both the children and parents, the bug manipulatives will allow your class to master early math standards such as counting, grouping, sorting, patterning, and the type of bug.

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4) MathLink Color Cubes

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Children love to role play and explore their imagination. MathLink Cubes promote hands-on exploration of basic mathematics using counting, stacking, sorting, and creating patterns.

Use this 200 piece set of MathLink Cubes to challenge learners into playing with their imagination. Build and design robots, houses, animals, helicopters, and more. 

The MathLink Cubes feature geometric shape cutouts that support early STEM activity ideal for visual and tactile learning. With cubes that easily snap together on all sides, the geometric shape cutouts are suitable for any learning activity.

Helps with the development of fine motor and math skills through one-to-one correspondence, eye-hand coordination, grouping colors, comparing the number of cubes, and nonstandardized measurements. That also includes grouping, addition, subtraction, and counting to 100.

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5) Simply Magic Magnetic Fraction Circles

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Simply Magic Magnetic Fraction Circles are among the best Math manipulatives for elementary school. It explains fractions to kids easily. Ideal for elementary (k-3) school students for playing fraction games in the classroom, or even when just having fun with Math.

This fraction magnet set contains 166 pieces with 12 fraction circles. Plus, you’ll love that it comes with extra tiles in case a few are lost. These fraction manipulatives are fully ASTM and CPSIA certified, meaning, they are safe for children to use.

Simply Magic Magnetic Circles and fraction bars use magnets. For an even easier demonstration, they have 5mm EVA foam with a durable anti-scratch technology laminated surface.

Kids will love eye-catching colors that not only separate the fractions but make showing visual differences easy to understand. With thick pieces, you are sure they will not easily wear out or get distorted from frequent use.

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6) Hand2Mind Algebra Tiles for Kids

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Hand2Mind Algebra Tiles for Kids are fun and colorful squares and rectangle tiles that provide a visual way of understanding and evaluating algebraic expressions. They represent numbers and variables to solve equations.

For example, using green rectangles represents the positive variables while red rectangles act for the negative variables. Each of the tiles speaks for quantity x, quantity x2, and quantity 1, s0 it follows that six can be represented by six square tiles. The tiles are big enough for the whole class to see. Plus, you don’t need magnets because they stick to flat non-porous surfaces without leaving any sticky residue.

The Hand2Mind Algebra Tiles help students learn algebraic concepts, including solving the first and second-degree equations, adding and subtracting polynomials, factoring trinomials, and the Zero Principle. Even parents can help teach their kids using these geometric models.

With demonstration clings, the tiles can be used often. The tiles are not only durable and reusable but washable and easy to store. Algebra tiles as math manipulative are definitely among the best investments if you want your students to build a solid foundation of algebraic concepts.

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7) Melissa & Doug Abacus

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You know how Abacus remained a consistent math tool since the beginning of time. Melissa & Doug Abacus not only is fun for teaching and learning basic counting, addition, and subtraction, it also supports the more complex procedures like division and multiplication.

Melissa & Doug Abacus is an old-fashion math tool that comes with eight additional extension activities that support early arithmetic, counting, solutions, and logical thinking skills.

You will love using the Melissa & Doug Abacus for its child-friendly features. It is made with a solid hardwood base and frame that holds 10 thick-coated wires with bright and colorful wooden beads on each wire. That’s a hundred pieces of attractive beads you are getting.

The abacus is a toy and an educational tool in one. You will take pride in this math manipulative for your class. You will be happy to see your students adding and subtracting large numbers that they could not easily do without a manipulative.

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8) School Zone Math War Multiplication Game Cards

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You want your class to have fun with multiplication using game cards ideal for both elementary and high school students.

Aside from being an enjoyable reinforcement learning, the language of math flashcards is to make the process of learning how to multiply feel like a game. A sense of play can encourage learners to explore and experiment with concepts in a spontaneous way than thinking of them as a problem.

Math War Multiplication Game Cards are specially created for students’ hands. They also come with big numbers and cute fish on them. A very entertaining game that allows students to multiply numbers through playful activity. The enjoyable math war game will put them in a playful mode of multiplying numbers without realizing that they have started to memorize their multiplication tables.

School Zone Flashcards are among the most interactive manipulative math tools. A wonderful instrument in helping children to study their multiplication table while playing a game at the same time.

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9) Math Balance with Weights

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This Math Balance with Weights is a manipulative that uses weights to illustrate the balancing concept. It is done by placing weights on a number on one side of the balance and a corresponding number combination on the other side to balance the weight.

This hands-on balance scale serves as a visual aid in learning about number relationships such as equal to, greater than, and less than. You can imagine how children will enjoy manipulating the weights as they are trying to balance and achieve equilibrium.

Preschoolers, elementary, and even secondary schoolers can use the scale on many occasions like using marbles or pebbles and comparing the use of cups to the weighing scale. You can definitely adapt the Math Balance with Weights to other mathematical concepts.

A perfect manipulative you will love because it comes with 20 weights for individual or group learning. Made from durable plastic, this balance beam set is built to last with classroom use.

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10) Reusable Dry Erase Pockets 

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This math resource is simply inserted into a worksheet (or any sheet of paper) – use a dry erase marker to write on the pocket. After the lesson, simply wipe the marker off the pocket. Meaning, this math manipulative is reusable.

The Dry Erase Pockets are economical because you don’t need to copy multiple worksheets from time to time. Designed with top-loading sleeves to help you easily add or remove documents. Practice math problems, letters, writing skills, and more with this super heavyweight pocket.

Dry Erase Pockets, as a manipulative, is never boring. With many neon colors, they will add warmth to your math sessions. This makes it fun to use even in kindergarten classrooms. Very convenient, you can insert pages inside the sleeves for the students to use dry erase markers to practice math solutions. No need to replenish the paper – just wipe it away and start again.

Since it is for classroom and children’s use, they are made of heavy plastic with double sewn edges. So you are getting durable pockets that you can use in the next more years to come.

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Conclusion

The best math manipulatives do not end here. There are a lot of different types of manipulatives that when used correctly will transform math concepts into something easier and more interesting to comprehend. One big reason to use math manipulatives is how these model toys engage everyone to participate in the class.

Children are concrete thinkers, but they are more engaged when it is coupled with excitement. Math manipulatives help children to understand how counting is related to the things they do every day. Their books, pencils, the time of the day, the cars on the road, their family members, and the number of people inside and outside the classroom – are things that connect to numbers.

The abacus, for example, would be easy for the students to use and apply when they experience it on-hands and let them analyze how to use it properly in order to achieve solutions. That is how math manipulatives work – by supporting what teachers are discussing, improving the lessons learned, and providing a tangible asset to students for enhancing the basics of a math concept.

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FAQ

1) What are the most popular math manipulatives?

Blocks, Snap Cubes, and Fraction Tiles seem the most widely-used math manipulatives.

Building blocks, the snapping of cubes, and arranging items are activities that are enjoyable for beginners and school children. These math models demonstrate several concepts like counting, adding, grouping, dividing, multiplying, and taking away.

If you can’t tell, these math tools are actually a colorful set of miniature interconnecting cubes that serve a variety of functions. These models can be placed in a single layer, tower, and can be connected on all sides. They can also be made to naturally fit into a square grid. Children build things in a variety of shapes and sizes as part of their learning process.

2) How come some people say math tools can hinder the learning of mathematics?

Anything that supports learning is never a hindrance to it. The general use of math tools is to reinforce, subsidize, and help students to understand the basic methods of mathematics.

The math tools system is simply the use of actual physical objects to show how a particular problem is solved. Such resources allow for the integration, connection, and opening of ideas, which streamlines the procedure into a straightforward calculating method. Math is a challenging topic in general. To summarize, the basic goal of math tools is to support, refine, and develop a child’s capacity for mathematical thought.

The thing that makes some people dwell on the “hindrance” issue is the possibility of students relying on objects. It is the fear that becoming too reliant on manipulatives may result in the child having difficulty when faced with real contexts or formats of the problem.

Why then would a child miss the real concept when in fact, the purpose of using math manipulatives is to help them understand the process step by step? Digesting how math problems arrive at their solutions prepares the child when faced with “find the answer” tests.

3) Which ones on your list are ideal for a preschool classroom?

Children are engaged with the Blocks, Patterns, and Cubes. Because they typically come in shapes, it teaches children to be familiar with the composition and decomposition of shapes and helps them recognize patterns. These tools are very helpful in developing dimensional reasoning.

Go for the Dry Erase Pockets. This math resource is simply inserted into a worksheet (or any sheet of paper) and then use a dry erase marker to write on the pocket. After the lesson, simply wipe the marker off the pocket, too. Meaning, this math manipulative is reusable.

It may be too early, but the Abacus is an old-fashioned tool that teaches basic counting, addition, and subtraction. It also supports more complex procedures like division and multiplication. Abacus learning not only helps students keep track of digits and focus on getting the correct answer but also helps with logical reasoning.

Mathematics deals with the logic of shape, quantity, and arrangement. Preschool math tools, in my opinion, ought to be more than just playthings for the table. Early childhood education should include any tools that are age-appropriate since they help kids develop their fine motor abilities, hand-eye coordination, awareness of forms, colors, and textures, as well as visual discrimination.

4) What are the best ways to use math manipulatives and make math sessions engaging?

Every teacher has a special style and approach when it comes to teaching math. On top of using physical models, I believe creative activities with drills for problem-solving will make your math days something to look forward to.

When students learn to use math manipulatives, the experience of finding solutions with the use of a tool that they can move and manipulate, is an opportunity to activate their brain sensors. But while learning to coordinate with numbers and figures, they are also having fun at the same time.

You know the pressures some children feel when it comes to math. So it pays a lot when you teach math not according to the speed you like, or the way fast learners do, but in favor of those who need more time and attention. Your concern will help you think of great ways for your students to reduce fear and cope with anxiety.

There are many activities that can put a positive spin on math. Try any of these activities so you can help students build confidence in solving problems and become individualized learners.

5) Do math manipulatives really help kids to learn?

Yes. The use of physical tools has been a traditional approach that remains effective to these times. Manipulatives work in two ways:

  • It allows students to establish their own reasoning models for abstract mathematical ideas. Learning how to manipulate the tool engages students and challenges their interest that they can do it. This increases their interest and enjoyment of mathematics.
  • Manipulatives serve as a common language in communicating the tools to the teacher and other students. Finding solutions with the use of their hands helps them with basic calculations easily and quickly.

There’s no substitute for firsthand experience and manipulatives are proven the most effective methods for young learners to do mental math. If students have physical evidence of how their thinking works, their understanding of math becomes more of a challenge than boredom.

6) Are there virtual manipulatives to teach math?

Yes.

Virtual manipulatives were developed in response to the growth of online learning to provide teachers and students with an accurate visual representation of actual manipulatives. They could be simulations, idea lessons, or visuals with numbers or pictures. The objects can be physically moved by sliding, turning, rotating, and flipping them using the computer mouse.

Read more about Virtual Manipulatives Used by K-8 Teachers.

Do you have math tools that you believe should be on this list? It would be great to know them in the comments.