Early Learning: Math Manipulatives

By the fourth child, I started introducing math manipulatives at an earlier age.  This is not to advance the child academically or cause undo stress, but simply, to offer a varied learning experience and exploration.  This has also helped promote interest in math from an early age. 

Today, I am sharing what my preschooler is currently using.  However, the older children have typically played and learned with math manipulatives through the second or third grade. 

Using our number cards (bought on clearance for a calendar we do not have), our preschooler puts numbers in order, chooses a corresponding number to reflect how many are in a group, learns concepts like greater than and less than, and plays a 'what number is missing?' game. 

{How we play the What Number Is Missing? game: He puts the numbers in order, and I remove one or two while he is turned around.  He turns and guesses what number(s) are missing.}

These peg boards and rubber bands from our early elementary Saxon Math manipulative kit are a hit with all the children.  Our youngest made these designs one day:

From the same kit, we have a bag full of teddy bears.  These are used with the curriculum for acting out addition and subtraction problems, but our preschooler likes them for graphing.

Overall, for our family, math manipulatives, those we have made and those we have bought, have been worth the time and investment.  Our children learn abstract concepts more easily after they have seen and experienced them with manipulatives.


  1. I agree that using manipulatives is SO helpful. Our favorites are unifix cubes (which I scored at a garage sale for next to nothing!). Just today at lunch time my daughter was helping me make mini cornbread muffins -- each one having a piece of hot dog in it. We had 20 muffins and had to cut each hot dog in 5 pieces... so that was some division/multiplication going on there. :-)

  2. Mary, fabulous find at the garage sale!
    Those real life situations, when we use math for food preparation or shopping are such wonderful examples and teaching moments for my children too.

  3. Yup, I have a logical mathematical 4 year old, and I'm so surprised at what he is able to understand while using manipulatives! Great ideas here! :)


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