Thursday, November 19, 2009

Our favorite math manipulatives

Over the course of the last few years, we have used a variety of homemade math manipulatives. Dried beans are great for counting. M&Ms are the best for subtraction. (" I had to eat them. The problem told me to.") Popsicle sticks, both single ones or bundles of ten with a rubber band around them, are great for illustrating place value. (I don't recommend bundles of 100. That's just a mess waiting to happen.) We've made fraction strips out of construction paper, used a variety of coins, and probably a few other that I no longer recall. We do own an abacus that we use for counting and skip counting. Still, my favorite math manipulatives of all time are my cuisenaire rods. Adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, place value, addition with carrying, subtraction with borrowing, long division, measuring, area, volume, and more can all be illustrated with cuisenaire rods. You can use them to build, arrange them to make dinosaurs or letters (and many other things), create patterns, sort by size or color, and probably several other things that I haven't though of yet. Basically, they are the most versatile of all my manipulatives.

When I bought my set of cuisenaire rods a few years ago, there were only a few options. Now they come in regular or jumbo, plastic or wooden, and with or without unit markings. They can be also one piece or connecting like legos. The number of idea books for how to use cuisenaire rods has also grown. It boggles the mind when you see all the choices. Still my favorite are these. Why?

1. I like the durability of the wood. The thought of teeth marks on the plastic rods makes me cringe.
2. I love the tray. It keeps the rod sorted out. It's easy to count around the tray in the beginning know which rod is which. At the end of the day, I can look in the tray and know for certain whether or not we have all the pieces. Those little white ones are easy to miss, and I'd hate to worry about a baby or toddler choking on a missed block.

There you have it. My favorite math manipulative. For those of you that have them and don't know what to do with them, I plan on writing several posts over the next few months showing the different ways we use the rods in our house. It will help me in a few years when I start teaching Henry, and hopefully, it will help some other homeschooling moms along the way. I'll even give them their own tag so you (and I) can find all the entries easily.

1 comment:

Julia said...

I love Cuisenaire rods too. I feel like I could teach almost anything with them. I didn't know they came with all the extra options. I've had ours about 6 years now and we still use them.

My second favorite manipulative is weighted base 10 blocks. They're good to reaching regrouping, and they can be used as weights with a balance scale.