Using manipulatives in math…

Hello to the teachers in Surrey!  Thank you for spending the day with me, playing and talking about important mathematical concepts. Time seemed to fly by, as it does when we are truly engaged in thinking and learning together…

I wanted to provide a link to the article entitled “Marilyn Burns’ 7 Musts for Math Manipulatives“.  In it, she describes ways to introduce, store and distribute math materials.  She also answers key questions about manipulatives, including when and how to use them.  It’s a classic article that will resonate with anyone trying to conscientiously implement the new math curriculum – supporting students to demonstrate understanding concretely, pictorially and abstractly!

Below you will find some photos of different ways to organize manipulatives for the classroom.  The first is a “Math Cupboard” at an elementary school, with bins and shelves labeled with the names of the materials.  Teachers looking to borrow the tubs have their names written on a wooden clothes peg, which they pinch next to the name of the manipulative borrowed on the master sheet.

Materials organized in class sets, by strand!

This is a photo of a rolling trolley of materials used by an intermediate teacher.  Each tub has a set of materials (protractors, multi-links, base ten blocks, pattern blocks, algebra tiles, etc) for a table group of 6 students.  When it’s math time, students collect their math materials and get started.  Having materials pre-counted and organized saves valuable class time!

Bins organized for groups of 6 students, labelled by table

Bins organized for groups of 6 students, labelled by table

Hopefully thse resources and ideas will prove helpful.

Have  a great start up!


One response

  1. I thought you may be interested in a math manipulative that I invented called the ZeroSum Ruler. it makes working with negative numbers much easier and more concrete. My graduate thesis results showed a 62% decrease in student error on a delayed-retention test one month after the last of three activities with the ruler. Before the ruler, I was getting a lot of “-22 + 5 = -27, etc., where my students were confusing addition with the rules of multiplication. You can check out my site at

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