9 Math Concepts to Teach Using Manipulatives


If you were to open up our school room closet doors, you would see a bunch of organized chaos!  I have books, art supplies, empty boxes, and containers of all shapes and sizes filled with various manipulatives. 

Just what are manipulatives?

Manipulatives are materials that help show your child a certain skill.  The use of manipulatives are great for hands-on learners!  

hands-on math manipulatives

Manipulatives help visualize the skill through touch and sight.  

There are so many fun ways to use manipulatives in your homeschool; in fact, we hosted a Make Math Fun with Manipulatives Series last year with several other blogging friends.  

A manipulative not mentioned in that series was plastic Ice Cubes; however, today I will share various ways you can use ice cubes to make math fun!

I typically have a list of items when heading into the store, but sometimes an unplanned item or two makes it in the cart anyway.  That's exactly how I ended up with plastic ice cubes to begin with.  They caught my eye and I just had to have them!  Not for our beverage of course-- but to use as a learning tool!

For a fun and cold alternative, you could even freeze them before working on various math skills!

Hands-on Math Manipulatives

Who knew that with a few packs of ice cubes you could work on various math skills for all ages; from toddler to elementary!

Here's a list of Hands-on Math Activities using Manipulatives-- as mentioned above, we chose to use plastic ice cubes, but they sky is the limit-- use whatever manipulative you have on hand!

  • Sorting:  introduce classification by encouraging your child to sort the ice cubes certain attributes like color or shape.
  • Counting:  how many ice cubes do we have?  Great for workin on numbers 1-10
teach math with manipulatives

  • 1:1 Correspondence
  • Patterns
teach math with manipulatives
  • Addition: using manipulatives to learn addition {and subtraction} is a great way to visualize what is happening with the numbers.  Are we adding to make the group larger or taking away to make the group smaller?
  • Subtraction
teach math with manipulatives
  • Multiplication/ Grouping: To help my son understand multiplication using ice cubes, I also brought out some plastic cups and set up a similar scenario: There are three cups {groups} and each group has 3 ice cubes, how many ice cubes all together?  By adding three ice cubes to each cup and then dumping all the cups into one pile at the end, he was able to count out how many ice cubes 3x3 equals.
  • Division
  • Graphing Skills

teach math with manipulatives

Are you a manipulative "junkie", too?  Any other math skills you can think of that you can use ice cubes as a hands-on manipulative?  

If you don't have any ice cubes on hand to use-- here's a BIG list of more math manipulatives you can use in your homeschool.

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