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DIY math manipulatives in K-12

February 17, 2011

Today’s post offers an idea that will help us be green, save money, and differentiate instruction all at the same time. This short article by Marilisa Kinney Sachteleben provides several ideas for creating your own math manipulatives. I loved the uses for twist ties, stickers, and playing cards in particular. The milk ring idea is nice too as it will appeal not only to your tactile learners but to those who do best with visual supports.

It would be fun to think of DIY supports for older students too. As Marilyn Curtain points out in this insightful article (from the Math Goodies portal), we need to make math more accessible in secondary classrooms. What could you find in your junk drawer, kitchen, or closet that could be recycled to teach probability, area, whole numbers…?

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 18, 2011 8:13 am

    Thanks, Paula! These articles are timely not only for their content, but for the economy as well. Commercial manipulatives are so expensive for districts operating on a shoestring. And many manipulatives can be made/counted out by students, which is a great math lesson in itself and gives greater understanding to the function of the manipulatives.

    I’m a diehard fan of the good old fashioned bean tensticks (dried beans glued to popsicle sticks–10 per stick–and drenched in a thick coating of white glue. Accompany with a small handful of loose beans and 10 tensticks glued together in a 100’s raft and you have a complete place value set). They are much more visually and tactilely clear than the commercial plastic rods, with skimpy little lines that the kids can barely see or feel.

    To go along with the article on manipulatives for secondary students, SEN Teacher has some excellent 3-D models of a wide variety of geometric shapes (includeing an icosahedren!). See

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