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  • Writer's pictureSmarty Pants Studies

Making Math Accessible: How to incorporate math manipulatives into your lessons

Ever wondered how you can use every day items to help your students understand math? Or, where teachers find these cool math manipulatives for their classrooms? In this blog, I'm sharing a few of my must-have math manipulatives (and of course, ways to make them cross-curricular) and where YOU can get them too! Scroll to the end for some coding resources too!

When working with students of all ages, I've learned that the way each student approaches a math problem, is different. Some are able to use mental math strategies, others need a pencil, some highlighters and ton of scrap paper, but most of all, I've noticed that used concrete materials and modelling problem solving with them for my class, has proved to show the biggest benefit. Here are some of the concrete materials I use in my class to help my learners thrive!

3D shapes can be used in so many ways! I've used these coloured shapes in my years in Kindergarten to Grade 6 (and I totally think they would be helpful to 7s and 8s too!). Not only does the 3D shape help with identifying sides, vertices and faces, it also can help when trying to determine how to draw nets of shapes as well. I like the plastic material as well because I was able to write on the sides to keep count of how many faces the shape had, and then easily wipe it clean. Students could also use these shapes as counters, and for patterning lessons too (lots of variations of shape and colour!). You might also consider using these when teaching about structures - which shapes work best when building a strong and stable structure? Which shapes won't work well and why? The possibilities are endless! I purchased these shapes online from Scholar's Choice a few months ago.

Play money has always been a staple in the primary classroom, but did you know you can purchase MAGNETIC play money? These play bills and coins are backed with magnets which make them super functional for classroom use. I used these on my board during distance learning and think it would also be a great way to have the whole class engaged in a math problem and be a great visual for students who are observing in the class. You could also use them in drama skits as props! These magnetic money manipulatives were also purchased from Scholar's Choice. You might also find these on Amazon as well.

I've used this dry-erase dice for so many lessons - even for Daily Physical Activity! It's great for teaching probability, but you could also use it for language as well. I've had multiple cubes available and written different writing prompts or story elements on the sides (e.g., genres, settings, problems, etc.) and students would roll the dice and use whatever they rolled to create a story! I've also used the dice for DPA as well. You can use it by choosing an exercise to do and then rolling the dice to see how many repetitions you'll have to do! I picked up this foam dice at Dollarama.

This purchase was mostly for me! As a teacher I always find it so difficult to demonstrate and model how to create and measure angles... until I took the plunge and purchased this giant protractor! It was a GAME CHANGER this past school year. Not only did it make modelling how to create and measure angles easier than using a small protractor on the board, it was great to have students come up to the board and have them give it a try too. It also makes super cute classroom decor (joking but also a little serious haha!). I got this protractor on Amazon.

Here's a little bonus resource I just had to share! With the addition of coding to the Ontario Math curriculum last year, I've been on the lookout for resources to help me teach my students about coding! I came across this book earlier this year and it tells the story of a little girl and her robot visiting an amusement park. The girl and her robot teach readers key coding terms like 'variable' and 'loop', all while planning their trip around the park using code! I purchased this book online from Scholastic Canada but it also available at Indigo and also noticed there a few other books by this author as well. I also created a coding assignment for my class that is completely on Google Slides. I used it with students in grades 5 & 6, but reviews from teachers show that it can be used in grades 3-8 which is awesome! You can check it out for yourself by clicking this link!

Stay tuned for more blog posts and feel free to submit topics you'd like to learn more about to or follow along on Instagram @smartypantsstudies!


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