# Hands on Math: Manipulatives and More

I’m a bit of a math manipulatives nut. The folks over at SecularHomeschool.com asked me to write a post for their new Soup to Nuts discussion group so my post is up today. Here’s the first little bit:

I remember the first time I encountered Cuisenaire rods in a graduate workshop. “Be sure you allow time for kids to play with them,” began the instructor, looking around at a room full of educators turning the tiny blocks into towers and patterns of stripes. As we knocked over towers and tried to pay attention to the instructions on how to use these colorful little things with students, we laughed. Even the adults were drawn to playing with their math.

I’ve since learned that there are a million ways to play with your math and hold it in your hands. It’s not a necessary step for absolutely every student, but for most, it makes math more fun, more tactile, and easier to understand. Math manipulatives can be a lifeline for some math strugglers, a shortcut to understanding for some thinkers, and a means to get to a deeper understanding for others. There are dozens of different products out there for both arithmetic and geometry and even an array of products for algebra. There are also ways to make math hands on by bringing it into the real world in other ways.

You can find the rest of my post as well as any discussion that arises from it here.

I wanted the kids to have geoboards, but the plastic ones sort of seemed cheap.  I remembered that the first time I saw a geoboard was my first year teaching in the Quaker school where I worked for many years.  The math teacher had the kids make them with wood and nails.  I asked the kids’ most handy grandfather (he built their entire screen porch himself!) if he would make them with the kids.

﻿

Here he is with some amazing machine that drilled a bajillion holes in a matter of minutes.

Here are the kids hammering the nails.

At first, I was worried they would give up on the hammering after doing a row or two.

Boy, was I wrong.  When they finished, BalletBoy told me sadly that he wanted more things to hammer.

Here’s the finished product.  They immediately went to put rubber bands on them and make shapes.  Also, a rubber band based picture of Appa from Avatar: the Last Airbender.  I don’t know why I didn’t take a picture of that.

In case you aren’t familiar with geoboards, they’re useful for geometric concepts like area and perimeter as well as basic shape creation.  They also can be used for a tactile way to explore bar graphs, multiplication and a number of other concepts in math.