# 10 steps to teaching with math manipulatives

Step 1. Although it is tempting to have all the math manipulatives set up and ready to go in September, it is better to only put some of the math materials out to begin with.

As children learn to care for each set of materials then introduce more.

Step 2. When teaching with hands on math materials, teach the children the correct names for classroom materials and the categories they belong with. For example, "These are pattern blocks and they are part of the math materials. All the math materials are in blue tubs."

Step 3. Teach the play boundaries for each new set of materials you present.
"These blocks are not for throwing or smashing against each other."

Step 4. Teach the children how to clean up after teaching with math manipulatives.  You have to spell it out for most kids.

"The pattern blocks are part of our math materials so we will store them in one of the blue tubs. Look at the picture on the front of the tub; it shows the pattern blocks. The words underneath the picture say pattern blocks. This is where you put the pattern blocks after you are finished with them..."

### Remember, you don't teach all of this in one day!

Step 5. When it’s time to clean up after teaching hands on math activities don't assume that your students are aware of safety issues. Children will throw objects across the carpet into a tub and accidentally hit another child. Many kindergarten children have only played with a few other children at a time and have to learn the dynamics of working within a larger group of people.

Step 6. Always let young children play with the math manipulatives for at least two weeks before using them in a structured activity. This gives children a chance to explore the objects, find out what the manipulatives can and can't do, and gives them time to learn new vocabulary. At this stage of teaching with manipulatives, sit with the children and add to their vocabulary as they play.

"Look, you are balancing the thicker, hexagon block on its side, but the thinner hexagon block falls over.. You can roll the cylinders and spheres easily, but not the cubes."

Step 7. Finally you get to teach with the math manipulatives! Make sure each child has enough space to work. Individual plain plastic table mats or pieces of plain white card spread out in a circle on the carpet work well.

First teach the children new skills using only the math manipulatives. This is the concrete stage.

In this example the children are learning what the number 4 means. The children build sets of 4 objects many times with various blocks and objects.  Give them plenty of time and opportunities to learn the concept at this stage.

IMPORTANT! Do not move on to the representational or connecting stage until the children appear to successfully understand an idea using math manipulatives only.

Step 8. Representational or Connecting Stage
Next, introduce the same activity, only this time after you teach with the math manipulatives, model a pictorial representation of four objects. Model the process, verbalize your thinking as you do it and invite the children to participate. Have the children try the process and guide them to success.

Here, the children have built sets of 4 with blocks and then traced around the blocks to make pictures that represent their sets.

If any children seem ready they can add the symbol 4 to their pictures.

Step 9. Symbolic stage
Only after a thorough understanding of the connection between math manipulatives and pictures and symbols are children ready to work with symbols alone. Don’t rush things.

IMPORTANT! Only after going through the concrete and connecting stages, do children printing the symbol 4 have a mental image of what the symbol 4 means.

And finally Step 10..

Surprise… just because a child seems to understand, what the symbol "4" represents at a symbolic level, don’t assume that they will understand "5". Start all over at the concrete stage, teaching with math manipulatives only. Do the same thing with any math concept or operation (+-/x).

## TEACHER TIP

Teaching children to clean up adds to the their understanding of classifying, ordering and sorting objects. E.g. All the math materials are in blue tubs on the math shelf. The science equipment is stored in green tubs under the science display table. Language arts center tubs are all yellow and stored in the writing center.

BONUS! Large printed labels on the tubs are great for teaching letter recognition, beginning and ending sounds, rhyming words and other language arts skills. Each tub has a picture and words to help the children put things away correctly. Use a large easy to read font rather than a label maker, which prints too small.

## Printing symbols

Children need time to practice printing the digits 0 - 10, in order to be ready to use them later on. Start early in the year so children will not be struggling to print the numbers when they are recording their learning.

Children like to paint numbers with their fingers or brushes, to form numbers out of play dough, or to make numbers with a variety of art materials. When they have mastered the formation of numbers, then they can practice printing numbers and symbols smaller.

The 10 best math manipulatives are...

Go to Kindergarten-Lessons News to get your FREE printable student book, "Making Friends One Day at a Time".

Use the pages to complete the "Making Friends" unit in the Themes section.

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Manipulative pages:
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Many educators and home school parents shop for hands on math materials from the "Learning Things - The Education Store", math manipulatives page.