In this blog post, I wanted to share the top 10 BEST math tools to use in kindergarten, first, and second grade! Before I dive in, I wanted to remind you that you don’t need any of these to be an effective math teacher, but these manipulatives sure do make life easier when teaching certain skills.
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As I go through each tool, I will share why I love it and when I use it with my students!
Math tool #1: Unifix Cubes
Unifix cubes are a MUST HAVE in any primary classroom. They can be used in so many different ways! They can be used as game pieces, they can be used for 1-to-1 correspondence, but the main reason I like them is that most experts agree that when students are working on base 10 in kindergarten and first grade, unifix cubes are better to start with instead of base-10 blocks. This is because students can physically move each block and connect them into groups of 10.
Grab these unifix cubes here >>> UNIFIX CUBES
Math tool #2: Dice
Who doesn’t love a good ole pair of dice?! We use dice all the time in the classroom! They are great for subitizing the numbers 1-6 since they get so used to using these that they immediately recognize those number patterns and don’t need to count each dot to know what number they rolled. They’re also great for counting and adding. Students can start by rolling a single die and then stacking that many unifix cubes to show the number. Then, they can move to two dice, add and stack and then three! Dice are versatile and can be used in so many different math centers.
Find these colorful dice here >>> DICE SET
Math tool #3: 2D/3D shape building set
When working with 2D and 3D shapes, it is so helpful to have students be able to build the shapes themselves. This little center comes with 125 pieces and students can build on their own or they can use the cards to help them build 2D and 3D shapes. The cards also offer ideas for showing fractions as well!
Find this math center here >>> SHAPE BUILDING SET
Math tool #4: Pattern Blocks
I love to use pattern blocks to help students with composing and decomposing shapes and for showing fractions! These blocks help students see all the smaller shapes they can use to make new shapes. I have a whole set of free composing shapes cards that you can use with pattern blocks! You can find those here >> FREE SHAPE CARDS
To grab some pattern blocks for your own room, check out these >> PATTERN BLOCKS
Math tool #5: 10-frame magnet set
These big magnetic ten frames are great for small group and whole group learning! They have colorful counters that stick right to the ten frames and I love how tactile they are for students. This pack, in particular, comes with tons of prompt cards for you to use with students as well so they can practice addition, subtraction, and so much more!
Find these magnetic ten frames here >>> TEN FRAMES
Math tool #6: Double-sided counters
I love these for decomposing numbers! We can pick a target number (10, for example) and put that many counters into a cup. Then, students can shake it up and spill the counters to see how many landed on red and how many landed on yellow to identify different ways to make a number. This can be done over and over again as students decompose all sorts of numbers!
Find them here >>> DOUBLE-SIDED COUNTERS
Math tool #7: Deck of cards
A deck of cards is classic and there are so many easy games students can play. They can play Go Fish! to practice number identification. They can play War! to practice comparing numbers. I have so many games your K-2 students can play over in my card & dice games playlist on YouTube. You can watch that here >> Card and Dice Games for K-2.
Grab some decks of cards here >>> DECKS OF CARDS
Math tool #8: Base 10 blocks
I mentioned this earlier, but we want our students to be able to use base-ten blocks, even if they start showing tens and ones with unifix cubes! These are great for students to represent two and three-digit numbers and they’re one of the best tools to use to help students practice addition and subtraction with regrouping. These let students conceptualize and visualize what is really happening when we regroup by using concrete tools!
Find some base-10 blocks for your students here >>> BASE TEN BLOCKS
Math tool #9: Mini-clocks
If you’re teaching students how to tell time, they need to get their hands on some clocks! I love the ones where there is an actual gear inside like the ones above. This way students can move the minute hand around the clock and see how the hour hand moves only one hour. It really helps students see how the analog clock works and they can see that their clocks work just like the ones in our classroom!
Grab these clocks here >>> MINI CLOCKS
Math tool #10: Geoboards
Geoboards are great to throw at a center for students to build shapes. They can build squares, rectangles, triangles etc. You can ask them to build a rectangle using only triangles and see how many ways they can do that. They’re also a great way to show fractions too!
Grab a set of geoboards here >>> GEOBOARDS
BONUS: 120 chart with removable tiles
Okay, I also LOVE this board for small group learning. It is a 120 chart with tiles. One side (shown above) has all the numbers listed under the tiles, and the other side is blank so students can work together to complete the chart in order. You can also remove some tiles and ask students where they belong and how they know! The options are endless!
This can be found here >>> 120 CHART WITH TILES
So there are my top 10 math manipulatives for K-2 students! These are ones I have used many times in the classroom and ones that I find very beneficial to have. Are there any of your favorites that I missed?! Let me know in the comments!
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