Best Math Manipulatives for Upper Elementary

8:00 AM

Do your 5th graders ever turn up their noses at using manipulatives during math? I can just hear it...

"These are for babies!" 
"I don't need those!" 
"Mrs. F., do we HAVE to use these?"

Luckily, those responses are short lived once students can see how manipulatives and hands on tools can really help them model and represent their math ideas. Here are a few of my favorite math manipluatives for upper elementary students!

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Color Tiles
From modeling and counting area to representing multiplication and division, square color tiles are my go-to manipulative for older kids! Tiles are so versatile that my students often use them in ways I never imagined. I have a huge bucket on hand for all kinds of math problems.

 Color Tiles

Two Color Counters
These are just about as awesome as the color tiles! My class loves using two color counters for all kinds of math problems. They can create arrays, addition and subtraction models, and even for beginning to learn about positive and negative numbers.

 Two Color Counters

Fraction Circles and Rectangles
I love having both fraction circles and rectangles on hand for all of our fraction units. They are perfect for modeling and building conceptual understanding of fractions. I like having both representations so they can see how fractions aren't always the same size or shape!

 Fraction Circles and Anchor Chart

Don't laugh! I'm totally serious. We use beans - yes, regular old beans - for SO many math ideas in fifth grade. They use them when dividing sets and for fractions of a set - and a ton of other things! Not to mention, they are the cheapest math manipulative you will ever find and they last forever. 

Centimeter Cubes
I have no idea how I used to teach volume without centimeter cubes. We use them to fill rectangular prisms, count layers, combine two figures to find the volume - you name it, we use them for volume. I think if you asked my fifth graders, they would say these are their favorite hands on math tool!

 Centimeter Cubes

I never thought we would use dice as much as we do! Our math curriculum uses dice in a myriad of ways and we also love to play games like Twenty Wins with dice. I love the fact that you can also differentiate with multi-sided dice and even making your own with fractions!

 Multi Sided Dice

Virtual Manipulatives
Last school year, during remote learning, we were faced with the challenge of teaching and learning new math concepts without the benefits of hands on tools for every student. Luckily, the internet comes through in a big way when it comes to virtual math tools! Here are just a few sites that offer online math manipulatives for students:

1. Didax - A whole suite of free tools, as well as instructions and free activities to practice with.

2. Toy Theater - SO MANY TOOLS! This one is probably my favorite. It doesn't require Flash, so it works on any device and browser. You don't have to download anything and it's fairly intuitive for students!

3. National Library of Virtual Manipulatives - This one is great because it's broken down by grade band and math strand. 

When my students were using virtual manipulatives, it was really important to teach them how to click and drag, how to take a screen shot, and how to upload a screen shot into the assignment they needed to turn in. Once they knew what to do, it made showing their work and solving problems a lot easier.

And there you have it - just a few of the best math manipulatives for upper elementary students. What is your favorite math manipulative? Which manipulative helps your students learn the most? Leave a comment below!

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Have a great rest of the summer!

by The Craft of Teaching

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