Top 10 Best Math Manipulatives List


There are so many fun math manipulatives you can use for the secondary classroom! It took me a few years to realize that hands-on manipulatives were not just for elementary school teachers.

My school provided the basics like calculators, rulers, compasses, and graph paper. But I soon learned there are so many other fun options out there! Here is my 10 best math manipulatives list. I have used all of these supplies in my own classroom, and I loved them!

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1. Tracing Paper (Patty Paper)

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Tracing paper is awesome for teaching so many concepts! One of my favorite ways to use tracing paper is teaching transformations. Students can trace a shape and then use the paper to perform translations, reflections, and rotations.

Click here to read my blog post about how I use tracing paper to teach mapping a shape to itself.

Tracing paper is also a great way to quickly grade student graphs. Graph the correct graph on a piece of patty paper. Then put your paper over the student graph. You can quickly see if they made any mistakes! These are  definitely my most used math manipulative in geometry.

2. Fabric Tape Measures

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Teaching students how to apply what they are learning to real life situations is so important! I used these fabric tape measures in so many activities.

One of my favorites is teaching right triangle trigonometry. I would have students measure their height. Then we would go outside and measure the length of their shadows (make sure it’s a sunny day). Next, we would use trigonometry to calculator the angle of elevation of the sun. Using this hands-on method to teach trig. was so much better than having them do worksheet problems!

3. Bingo Chips

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Bingo chips are a cheap math manipulative that can be used for multiple activities! Bingo is a fun way to review so many math topics. My students loved reviewing vocabulary using bingo.

I would use free bingo card generators like this one and type in 24 vocabulary words. Then, I would put the definitions of the words on PowerPoint slides and click through the slides. The students would put a bingo chip on the correct word.

I also use bingo as an alternative to a practice worksheet. First, I would create 24 problems (make sure they all have different answers). Then, I put the answers on the bingo cards. Finally, I would put the questions on my smart board and students would solve to find the answer on their bingo card.

4. Dice

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If you have any probability standards in your curriculum, dice are a must have math manipulative! I love these multi-colored ones so you can use the colors in your probability problems. You can also use these for classroom board games!

I use dice when I am teaching compound probability. First, I will put students in pairs and give them a worksheet with compound probability problems. Then, I have the students answer the questions using dice. Finally, we talk about theoretical versus experimental probability. When they actually see the results, it helps them to remember!

5. Graph Sticky Notes – My favorite math manipulative!

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One of my favorites! I love using sticky notes in general in the classroom. I will assign a problem, give each student a sticky note, and have them stick their answer to the board. I’ve also had them trade and grade with a partner.

These graph sticky notes are a game changer! Graphing is always such a tricky topic for students. And let’s be honest, they usually don’t love practicing graphing! Graphing on a sticky note is a fun alternative that makes the process a little less painful.

6. Playing Cards

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Playing cards are another great way to teach probability. I use playing cards throughout my probability unit in geometry.

Having a “card day” can help students get used to the deck of cards. Let students play whatever card game they want (if you have time). I started this because I realized many students have no prior knowledge about cards! So, I would teach them the suits and other card properties. Then I could use the cards to teach harder probability concepts like independent and dependent events.

7. Mini Basketball Hoop (Ok not technically a math manipulative…but still useful!)

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This may be my all time favorite classroom purchase!! I played trashketball for years, and the students loved it. However, when I brought this bad boy to class, they LOST THEIR MINDS! I couldn’t believe how enthusiastic high school students were about a toy basketball net!

I use this before every single test for review games. I’ve done all types of games. The easiest game is to split the class into groups of 4, put questions on the board, and allow them to go around the room and answer questions. If a group gets a question right, they get to shoot. Easy and engaging!

8. Clipboards

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I used clipboards on a weekly basis in my classroom. Any time I assigned task cards or an around the room activity, I would give students a clipboard for their student answer sheet.

I think movement in the classroom is SO important. Any time I could get students up out of their desk, I would. Clipboards make working while standing or walking a lot easier. Plus, students don’t have to carry around their notebook or textbook with them.

9. 3D Shape Kit

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This one is a little pricy but so worth it! If you teach geometry, this kit is so useful! I love that the lids come off so you can fill the shapes. I used these to teach volume in my geometry class.

One of my favorite activities is to show students how 3 cones will fit inside one cylinder if the bases are congruent. I would use cereal or rice and fill the cylinder 3 times with the cone. Students wouldn’t believe me until I actually proved to them using the rice or cereal! Such a great lesson!

10. Dry Erase Page Pockets

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These are great for saving paper! If you have ever had a copy limit for the year, you know that paper is precious. I would use these by making a class set of worksheets and have students write their answers using dry erase markers.

Then I could reuse the papers for my next class. These not only save paper, but the students love them! There is something about changing up the normal worksheet that helps them focus.

Have you used any of these in your classroom? What are your math classroom must-haves? Let me know below.

Happy Teaching!

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One Comment

  • I am a Sp. Ed. teacher from Elm Street Elementary in Rome, GA. I have invented a number line to 10,000,000 & other math manipulatives that address fractions, decimals, elapsed time, money, capacity, & weight, Visit my website for additional information., including articles about my strategies and demo videos. Hopefully, I can make your list next year!


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