When it comes to math, having physical objects you can move, or manipulate, often helps kids to better understand the problem.
Kids will have fun creating these DIY Math Manipulatives. They are perfect for teaching kids how to do double digit math.
These will work as base 10 manipulatives, and can help kids visualize what is happening in double digit addition and subtraction problems, whether they are learning the “new” way or the “old” way.
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Having objects to move around when learning to add or subtract can really help kids visualize what is happening.
Popular objects to use in math centers include bear counters, buttons, and tiny erasers.
Your child may also enjoy using toy cars, mini figures, or other favorite items they have at home. When working on early subtracting you can even use playdough and play Subtraction Squish.
DIY Math Manipulatives
- Pipe Cleaners (Chenille Sticks)
- Pony Beads
Cut the pipe cleaners into 2 1/2 to 3 inch (6 – 7.5 cm) long pieces.
Have your child string 10 beads onto each piece of pipe cleaner. You can further challenge them by having them put the beads in a pattern.
Bend the ends of the pipe cleaner pieces to help keep the beads on.
How to Use Homemade Math Manipulatives
Once you have your DIY math counters ready, use them for some hands-on math.
Get out 2 small plastic containers to hold your manipulatives.
Put the pipe cleaner sets of 10 in one bowl. Put a handful of single beads into the other bowl.
One way to use the DIY manipulatives is to talk about place value in two-digit numbers.
Write a two-digit number on paper, or use a set of number cards like we did.
Use the strands of 10 to represent the number in the 10’s place, and use the single beads to stand for the 1’s.
For instance, in the photo below, there are 6 strands of beads to stand for the 6 in the 10’s place, and 3 single beads for the 3 in the 1’s place in the number 63.
Do this several times together until your child seems comfortable with the concept. You can even stop to count each and every bead on your homemade manipulatives to prove you really have the same number of beads as the number.
There are so many ways to make math fun. Another way to use your manipulatives is to work on counting by 10’s.
As your child is counting by 10, line up the beaded pipe cleaner pieces — so there is one pipe cleaner with 10 beads for 10, two when they count 20, and so forth. This is a great way for them to see what counting by 10’s really means.
Of course these DIY math manipulatives are also great for helping kids visualize double digit math problems.
These are perfect for helping kids better visualize place value as well as what’s really happening when you add or subtract those double digit numbers.
Why spend money on expensive math counters when you can make your own? For other ideas on how to make your own base 10 manipulatives, check out The Measured Mom.
More fun hands-on math ideas:
- Kinesthetic Math Activities
- Simple Hands-On Measuring Activity
- Nerf Gun Math
- ABCs & 123s — Hands-On Learning Ideas
Note: This updated post originally was published November 28, 2014.
Donna DM Yates says
Now this is a brilliant idea to help with math.
Whenever possible I like to make math hands on!
Kelsey @ Snacking Squirrel says
as an EA special needs assistant this really comes in handy!
🙂 Glad someone can use the idea!
What a great idea!! Math is so much easier with a hands-on approach. Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!!
I love this idea. My granddaughter just started 1st Grade. This will make a great learning tool. Thanks for sharing on Sunday’s Best.