So I know that when it comes to blog posts, it sounds so much niceer to say “The top 5 . . .” or “The 10 best . . .” But, try as I might, I could only find four math manipulatives, out of the many that I own, that I can look you in the eye and say, “It is SO worth spending your hard-earned money on this for first grade.” And, after all, that is what I’m here for–buying things so you don’t have to–or, actually, honesty. I’m here to be honest with you about what brings the most value to your homeschool, even if that means I don’t have a number 5 for my list.
There are many other math manipulatives/resources I would say are invaluable to have for first grade. But they are free printables or DIY items that I will share in another post. Here, I want to share a few items that I would suggest going ahead and making the purchase for. They have gone the distance time and time again. And I can honestly say they have made imparting the skills and concepts necessary so much easier that I would have paid much more for them.
These old-fashioned fridge magnets are so useful! Mine include letters too and all of the pertinent +, -, x, /, and = signs. But we mostly use just the numbers themselves. I found they were best for:
- rearranging numbers into proper order (ascending or descending),
- demonstrating number triangles and the interrelationship numbers in a given addition/subtraction fact (2+3=5, 3+2=5, 5-3=2, and 5-2=3),
- calling out a two or three digit number and having the child form it.
Need I say more? To teach time-telling you have to get their little hands on a concrete way of practicing and demonstrating. I remember my mother making a model out of a paper plate for me and I loved it.
But the fantastic part of this manipulative is the working gears. This means that it moves in a realistic way, which shows the child that the hour hand only points directly to the hour on the o’clock. At all other times, it points somewhere between that hour and the next. This is a tricky part of learning to tell time and this resource helps demonstrate it perfectly, whereas homemade ones usually don’t do that automatically.
There are many, many options out there for fraction materials. And I would say it’s more important to just have one, rather than which one you actually have. It is one of those concepts that hands-on demonstration helps. I love these because they are simple and tactile. They get the point across clearly and allow the child to directly compare multiple fractional units beside one another. The big plus to this manipulative is that it will be useful in future grades as well as they get into more advanced fraction work.
Place Value Blocks
This is the one I use the most – almost daily. Like the fraction materials, it will be useful in multiple grades. And nothing can beat it for demonstrating the concepts. Place value is an abstract concept, but one that even young children are capable of fully understanding when they see it in a concrete way. My little one LOVES to see these come out at math time.
The “ones” cubes are great to use for counting pieces as well. Use them to give your child a visual of addition, subtraction, more or less than – the possibilities are endless. One of my favorite uses is to visually demonstrate word problems.
We use all of these manipulatives to accompany the Horizons Math curriculum. But regardless of what curriculum you use, I think these resources would be relevant for the concepts covered in first grade.
Added bonus – BOTH my children love “playing” with all of them outside of school time as well!