How to Teach Hands on Math



In many ways I think math is one of the easiest subjects to make hands on.  You use math for cooking, you use it for most games, and in so many other areas.

How to teach hands on math

How to Teach Hands on Math activities

  • Look for real life uses of the area you’re using.  Look for shapes in your life, drag out some toys and use them for addition and subtraction problems.
  • Draw your problems (disclosure: this one does not work for my kids, their drawings are completely off subject).  But, I’ve heard for some kids drawing helps them engage more.
  • Play board games (here’s a whole list of math games, not even counting the simple adding for movement)
  • Use real objects to act out problems, this is one of my kids’ favorites.
  • Use manipulatives for math (I’ll get into that more in the next section).
  • Use a beach ball, and answer the math problem your hand is touching

How to Teach Hands on Math, what to buy

There are so many things you can use to make math hands on, here’s a few of our favorites.

{These are affiliate links, for the most part I’ve bought similar items to these at local stores because I like to sit there and torture my kids as I debate between different versions of the same thing}

Interlocking Base Ten Starter Set- Base 10 blocks are a must have manipulative for young kids, it helps them see visualize math problems.  I recommend the interlocking ones because then you have the added benefit of being able to join them together to illustrate the point (and my kids love to build with them)

Calendar and Weather Pocket Chart- This is the super deluxe version, but calendar pocket charts are great for showing date and helping your kids get an idea of what is going on.  The weather function lets you introduce graphing in a low key way, I’d also recommend the NeuYear Calendar, it’s great for showing visually the passage of time.

Three Bear Family Rainbow Counters- These seem to be a requirement for any preschool or kindergarten classroom.  They’re sturdy, indestructible, and have so many applications, sort by size, sort by color, add up how many red and blue you have.  Learning Resource also makes counters in just about any category you can name.  But the 3 Bear counters have the most versatility because of having both size and color for sorting.

Rainbow Fraction Deluxe Circles- A must when introducing fractions, or some other version of this, my kids were not getting this until we had them

Melissa & Doug Play Money Set- We have this exact set, and it provides so many opportunities to learn how to make change and get the right coins, also I like the wooden storage it comes with.

1/4 in Rule Graph Paper- graph paper is great for illustrating many different geometry and multiplication problems.  I have to admit I usually search FREE online graph paper and name the size I want, then print as needed.  But if you want some just handy right there, this is the way to go.

Primary Bucket Balance, great for comparing size and weight, also there are extras that go with this balance bucket you can get for comparing numbers that are actually weighted correctly

100+ Pack of Random Polyhedral Dice in Multiple Colors Plus Free Pouch Set by Wiz Dice- I buy my dice at a local toy store and get the exact ones I want, BUT, if you don’t have that opportunity, this is a great way to get A LOT of dice for a good price.  Dice can be a fun way to work on any of the major 4 functions.  If you do a quick google search for dice games you’ll find more than you can count.

Clever Catch Multiplication Ball and Clever Catch Addition Ball- I asked Batman his favorite math game and he said these, then told me we needed to blow them up again.  You can achieve the same thing with a normal beach ball and writing on it, but I had an addition one from when I taught.

Hundreds Pocket Chart- Any former teacher of young kids will tell you, pocket charts are a must have, as many as you can.  I didn’t get one of these when I was teaching, so I don’t have this, I have a Numbers 1-100 Chart.  But, both have great applications for learning to count, looking for odd and even, multiplication, counting by 5’s and 10’s.  On and on and on.  Princess uses our Hundreds chart all the time for addition.

hands on math games

Hands on Math online

Afterschooling for Smarty Pants Facebook page- Every day she posts a mental math problem, such a great way to engage math brainiacs.  I freely admit I don’t like doing mental math, and like to see it.

Let’s Play Math- I just discovered this site, and she gives suggestions for all ages of math users.  It’s looking pretty exciting.

Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational- posts a lot of fun math ideas.  If you scroll down you’ll see she has her math ideas broken down by skill (addition, counting, division, etc.)

All Things Beautiful- She does some amazing hands on math projects for older kids.  In case you can’t tell she’s one of my go to sources for great hands on learning

Math board- not many people blog MOSTLY about math, but there’s a lot of people who blog about it amongst other things


To see the rest of the posts in the series head on over to How to Teach Using Hands on Learning

For more ideas on how people teach, visit iHomeschool Network How I Teach series.


8 responses to “How to Teach Hands on Math”

  1. Great stuff you have listed here. My kids are less kinetic than yours seem to be. Quentin did well with drawing his problems when he was younger.

    1. All of my kids’ drawings for their problems do absolutely nothing to help them solve the problem. It cracked me up last semester as we were using Saxon and it kept saying “draw a picture to show how you solved it,” and then my kids would draw an epic story about the problem, illustrating the problem, but not the solving.

  2. maryanne @ mama smiles Avatar
    maryanne @ mama smiles

    Ooh I have a few new things on my wish list, now! I adore math manipulatives, especially those little plastic bears!

    1. I know, me too. I used to work at a teacher supply store, and I was fascinated by the wide variety of math counters Learning Resource came up with, and the hundreds of permutations they had on activities for them.

  3. Wow! Love these ideas. My youngest is a hands-on learner and I have been searching for some ideas to make math fun and encourage her to enjoy learning. Thanks for the great tips!

    1. I’m glad it’s helpful to you.

  4. […] from Adventures in Mommydom shares her ideas for Hands on math, Fraction circles, and Math […]

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