Teaching Math Using Manipulatives

Are you homeschooling your little ones? Do you wonder how to introduce math to them? Did you know that you can do this through playful activities, using things that you already have around the house?   When my daughter was little, we did our homeschooling with lots of fun, hands-on activities, and fit her learning time into our daily routine and she learned her basic early math skills through Math Play.

Math Manipulatives Play

Our little ones learn best through play. Basic math concepts, such as counting, sorting, bigger/smaller, same/different, adding, subtracting, etc can all be learned through play with manipulatives.   Manipulatives can really be any small object that you have around your house. Buttons, shells, rocks, etc, can be sorted by shape, color, or size, and grouped into sets. This teaches early math concepts, as through play!

When you are four, everything is math! Toys can be counted, towels sorted and put into sets. Cookie making became a lesson in adding and subtracting, and beads can get sorted into patterns as well, while making necklaces. Also, buttons, shells, rocks, sorted by shape, color, size, what have you. Even laundry could be sorted into sets.
An easy way to do this is to make your own manipulatives kit.

This is frugal and simple to do. I just collected small items from around the house, and put them into small containers. You can include any of these in your kit:

1. Small legos, or blocks, or other small toys
2. Our old collection of buttons
3. Beads that we had from a holiday gift
4. Crayons – these can be sorted too, by color, or can also be used to make patterns. Example: Line up the crayons like this: red/blue/yellow….red/blue/yellow to make math patterns
5. Favorite shells and rocks from the beach
6. Pinecones from the yard
7. Or other small things that you find

Organizational Tips:

Use a small container, such as an old margarine tub, for each category of manipulatives. Then place each of these containers into a nice shoebox or basket. This way you can pull out one container at a time. This helps to control the clutter! You can limit the number of manipulatives used at one time.  For example, I gave my daughter a container of buttons to sort. She could sort them by color, size, put them into sets, count them, and even practice adding them together.  I saved our manipulatives kit for use only during math play time. This made it special for my daughter. And she looked forward to math play time each day!  My daughter is now in her first year of college, taking pre-calculus. And it all started with simple math manipulatives play as a little one!

Don’t forget all the great math learning that happens in the kitchen, too!

Baking is also great for practicing adding and subtracting….Subtracting was my daughter’s favorite, especially when we made brownies.

And there’s always pizza night, for learning fractions….Who gets to eat the last piece, 1/4th?

The most important thing that your kids need to learn about early math is that they can do it and….Math is FUN!

Betsey ScrogerBetsy is a writer and blogger who offers homeschool help, and most importantly, is mom to her 18 year old, who is now a newbie college student.  Betsy homeschooled her daughter all the way, from preK through high school, using hands-on approaches and lots of unit studies.  She blogs about everything homeschooling at BJ’s Homeschool, sharing Our Steps to College, and all the fun of the Early Years too.  Betsy is also an OT and a former preschool teacher.  Follow her on google plus at + Betsy Sproger