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How Can Math Manipulatives Help Your Child Learn Better?

Team StoryWeavers|June 21, 2022, 17:35 IST| 7

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”


Physical objects have been used for the longest time to solve mathematical problems such as counting, multiplication, etc. Math manipulatives are physical objects used to teach children different mathematical concepts as it allows them to experience these concepts first-hand. Manipulatives are essentially objects to think with. 

In this article, we will cover:

Key Things You Need To Know About Manipulatives

A paper published in the Journal of Instructional Pedagogies titled Using Manipulatives to Teach Elementary Mathematics by Mississippi State University mentions a few interesting things: 

  • Manipulatives need to meet the developmental level of the child. For example: Younger children can have individual counters whereas older children can have coloured rods that represent different numbers. 
  • Manipulatives need to allow children to explore the given mathematical concept effectively instead of just moving manipulatives. 
  • Manipulatives may improve children’s retention of mathematical concepts and reduce math anxiety.

Three Everyday Objects That Can Be Used As Manipulatives 

As we have already established, manipulatives help young children explore different mathematical concepts in a tangible way. Here are some everyday objects that can double as manipulatives. 

  • Marbles: Marbles can help you teach or revise basic early math concepts such as counting and skip counting. Marbles can also be used to teach single digit addition and subtraction. Dice that comes with different board games can also be used to explore single digit addition and subtraction. 
  • Silverware: Spoons, forks, cups, and plates can be used to teach children about patterns. Children can make and identify patterns using these objects. These can also be used to explore measuring and estimation. 
  • Ice-Cream Sticks or Straws: These can do wonders while teaching children double-digit addition and subtraction. For older children, these can be used to teach multiplication and division as well. However, you do need to either colour-code or group these as per the place value. 

Before starting with manipulatives, parents should let children play with the manipulatives so that they do not get distracted later. You should also explain the reasoning behind using manipulatives to ensure that children know why they are using these manipulatives. Do incorporate manipulatives in everyday math revision to ensure hands-on learning and improved retention of the concepts. 

Are you excited to try this out? Do you think your child will enjoy learning with manipulatives? Do let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Speaking of manipulatives, learn how to use dominoes to teach Math for kids. 


  • Boggan, M., Harper, S., & Whitmire, A. (2010). Using manipulatives to teach elementary mathematics. Journal of Instructional Pedagogies. 

About the Author

“Me-kha-la!” That happens at least once when she introduces herself to new people. She wholeheartedly believes in the quote by Arthur Rubinstein that says – “if you love life, life will love you back”. She is an organizational psychologist and psychometrician. She was a class teacher of 36 adorable girls for two years, grades 2 & 3, as a part of the Teach For India Fellowship. These little girls have a special place in her heart, and when she writes for children, she writes for them!

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