3 Powerful, Hands-on Math Materials

Counters showing odd and even numbers from 1 to 8; Base 10 blocks representing 1,346 and cubes modeling a 3D shape from drawn 2D views - front, top and right.
Most of us learn more by doing than by just seeing or hearing. Exploring concepts in Math by handling real objects can set children up for success. Give your child/students a head start by using these 3 powerful hands-on Math materials for illustrating basic Math concepts.
While many ordinary objects found in the home are useful for teaching Math, there are three items which I highly recommend purchasing. Use them to help children with counting, place value, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and more.
The 3 hands-on Math materials which I personally endorse as the most versatile and powerful for teaching basic Math concepts are:

1.lcy Pole sticks.

These are very useful for introducing counting, place value, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and more. They are cheap and easy to find in craft shops and bargain shops. Bundle them up using elastic bands in groups of ten leaving about 20 loose sticks for counting as ones (or units). Use a small whiteboard that can be placed on a table or a sheet of cardboard (A3 size) and draw a line down the centre with headings at the top, “Tens” on the left and “Ones” on the right. For instructions on what to do next, click the link below to an earlier post. https://youandmetutoring.com.au/icy-pole-sticks-and-early-maths-concepts/

2. Plain, round, coloured, plastic counters

Plastic counters can be used for introducing and reinforcing concepts of  odd and even numbers, prime numbers, doubling, multiplication, factors, division, fractions and even proportion. Use them with Ten Frame cards (view my post “Why Use Ten Frames for Early Math Skills” or view this site https://www.thoughtco.com/ten-frames-to-teach-number-sense-3111121). They are also useful for Math board games. Line them up in arrays (like a company of soldiers) to teach multiplication, factors and divisibility. Build up patterns making sequences of colours, and shapes like triangular and square numbers. Buttons are a possible substitute, but you will need at least two different colours and 100 of each. I purchased 1000 counters, 250 each in red, blue, yellow and green, all in a clear plastic container with a clip-on lid from Modern Teaching Aids several years ago and have used them over and over again with my students.

3. Base 10 blocks (or MAB blocks)

These are a selection of small cubes (ones), sticks which are the equivalent of 10 cubes stuck together in a line (tens), flats which are the equivalent of 100 small squares or ten rows of tens all stuck side by side in a square shape (100s) and a few large cubes which are equivalent to 10 flats stuck together (thousands). They can be obtained in plastic or wood from Modern Teaching Aids or other online suppliers. Use these for extending place value as well as more advanced addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. They are useful for demonstrating and calculating surface area and volumes of prisms. Other uses include viewing, making and drawing 3D shapes using drawings of 2D views of the shapes and vice versa.

Summing Up

Icy Pole sticks, coloured counters and base ten blocks are 3 powerful hands-on materials for illustrating Math concepts because they can be used in many different areas of Mathematics. They are the most used of all my materials apart from white-boards, markers, pencils, paper (vast quantities of scrap paper), rulers and calculators.


Which hand-on Math materials have you found most useful? Let me know in the comment box below and feel free to ask any questions.