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to best math materials

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When I started teaching I was thrilled about reading and social studies and writing. But math. Math I was concerned about.

I’ve never been strong in math. Such insecurities made me nervous to teach it and anxious to make sure my students did not deal with the same insecurities.

In the beginning of my teaching career I was all about the textbook. All hail the textbook. The videos, the worksheets, the tests. Surely if I followed the book exactly I would be fine. Right?

Not exactly. Following the text book verbatim made my teaching monotonous and failed to pick up on the individual needs of my students. In other words, I was focused on the text instead of my students. Big no no.

When my math grades started suffering and my students looked glazed and confused during math instruction…well we had to change.

Looking beyond the textbook I started looking into stations that would engage my students in the concepts we were learning.

Instead of using endless worksheets and one-sided questioning, I needed to teach math the same way I did reading. I needed engaging stations and self guided learning opportunities.

After all was said and done, my students learned to love math (and I learned to love teaching it). Working together, we both became much less afraid of it. Working with math materials during stations allows students to get hands-on experiences to make sense of number concepts. 

The following math materials transformed my math instruction and made stations a breeze. With these ten materials, you will be ready for any math station and create meaningful learning experiences for every student!


math manipulative dice

Oh dice, out of all my math materials you are my favorite. Dice are so versatile and can be used in numerous math stations. With a mixed set of dice like this one, you can differentiate each station to meet the needs of your students in an efficient way. Foam dice are a quieter option but still as effective. These containers are another great way to reduce noise or sort the dice. Just throw the dice in the containers and students can shake the container without flying dice all over the room.


Playing Cards

math manipulatives cards

Playing Cards are a really cheap and simple math resource. Students can add, subtract or multiply the cards. You can make an Ace, Joker, King, Queen or Jack any number to differentiate for students. They provide one-to-one correspondance as students count the objects on the cards as well. I love to organize my cards in soap boxes so they are ready for my students to grab and go!


Flash Cards

flash cards manipulatives

Flash Cards may seem like an obvious choice but they continue to impress me with their flexibilty. Students can play various card games such as Go Fish, War or they can quiz each other and play teacher (I have many students that LOVE this option).



math manipulatives play doh

This math material is very hands-on and allows students to create shapes, numbers and other math objects. Play-Doh can be sculpted or rolled flat and stamped. The options are endless and students love this material because it feels like play time.



math manipulatives dominos

Another one of my favorite math materials is dominos. They are perfect for addition and subtraction. Students can also create two digit numbers with one side serving as the tens place and one side serving as the ones place. Students can practice doubles and the make ten addition strategy as well. Can’t say enough about these little guys.


Unifix Cubes

math manipulatives unifix cubes

Another great math material are Unifix Cubes. Students can stack them to create numbers, combine colors to symbolize math equations or decompose them for counting purposes. This resource is highly versatile and the perfect material for almost any station.


Base Ten Blocks

math manipulatives base ten blocks

Base Ten Blocks provide students with greater number sense as they learn about the ones, tens and hundreds place. First graders have an especially difficult time discerning the tens and ones place in a number. By decomposing the number and illustrating them with these blocks you can help students grasp this otherwise abstract concept. I like to have my sets of blocks sorted into containers so that they are always available for a demonstration or student use.


Colored Chips

math manipulatives chips

These cute gems are great for counting or to serve as markers for board games you find online. I can give each student a different color and they can use it to move through the board. Students can also use Colored Chips in four in a row games as well as bingo.


Dry Erase Pockets

math manipulatives dry erase pockets

This material’s sole purpose is to save you time and money. Sounds like a winner to me! Dry Erase Pockets can be used in so many different ways. You can print off any of your favorite worksheets, board games or station activity and BAM! it is instantly reusable. They erase easily with a tissue or other erasers. You will save money on laminate, copy papers and ink – all of which a teacher is in constant need of!



math manipulatives clothespins

Last but not least, clothespins are often an overlooked material for mathematics, but nevertheless invaluable. There are so many clothespin games and activities that make clothespins an affordable and effective math material.


Of course my favorite way to store my manipulatives is using my beloved Sterilite containers. (Check out my New Year Classroom Organization post for more details about organizing your math materials).

math manipulative organization


And there you have it, ten must-have math materials that will make your math stations a huge success. They are easily reused and repurposed for a variety of stations. The Brown Bag Teacher has an amazing post detailing how she uses many of these materials in her mathematics instruction. Her resource on TpT is AMAZING (not an affiliate link). You can print and laminate the resources and alongside the materials listed in this post, you can set up your math stations for the entire year. Sounds like a no brainer to me.



Take the plunge, get hands on and check out these manipulatives. I guarantee they make your mathematics more magical. Comment below or share your favorite materials for math instruction on Facebook or Instagram (@learningismagical).