5 Manipulatives For Learning Decimals

Last Updated on October 10, 2023 by Editorial Team

Please Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure (link) for more info.

One thing I have noticed quite often is the use of decimals in our day-to-day lives. Be it in exams, handling money, or taking measurements, decimals are everywhere! But ever wondered how much we learned about it in our school curriculum? I must say, very little. If I recall correctly, other than one or two chapters in junior years and in the number system, we hardly saw any particular curriculum focus on dealing with decimals.

Maybe this is because schools consider that students are capable of absorbing it as a regular schedule for topics in the subject. Which according to me, is justifiable. But if we go by the actual numbers, research shows a major number of students are not comfortable with decimals. Now given such a crucial role of decimals in later topics of the subject, it becomes important not to leave it out.

If you regularly follow our blog, you must know how we always support adopting a new learning process early in life. It becomes even more important when you are dealing with a learning disability, such as dyscalculia or dyslexia. Now, the new learning process can be any alternative approach other than traditional ways of teaching and learning. Adopting the same for decimals early will be beneficial in the long term.

There are a lot of intervention strategies to go for such as the use of online games and activities for teaching dividing and multiplying decimals. One that matters the most is to let the kids experience the knowledge rather than churning the topic for just marks. The ability to have on-hand experience deeply embeds the impression of what you are trying to learn. This is best achieved by practicing with manipulatives.

I have already talked about the best possible math manipulatives for high and middle school students. For this post, our area of focus will only be decimal manipulatives. Although fraction is directly related it will be our focus of upcoming posts as I am catering this post for all the age groups rather than senior years of school. So, here is the curated list of 5 cool decimal manipulatives for learning.

5. Precision Rulers

A common ruler in our geometry box is applicable to a whole lot of other educational purposes than just drawing straight lines. You may be surprised to know a good chunk of our experience dealing with decimals may come from using rulers for measurement. So, this is a must in our list of decimal manipulatives.

Teachers must focus on asking kids which line refers to which number value with decimals. A good practice will be to measure something and ask how many such decimal lines we need to measure the whole, and what number value we get from it.

Better to start with the decimal point representing the half and quarter portion of the measurement. Then go deep further to a bit challenging decimal values such as 1.4, 2.8, etc. Although the numbers are limited to the markings present on the scale still enough to experience the basic concept of decimals in primary schoolers.

4. Decimals Dominoes

Dominoes have long been used as a math manipulative for various mathematical operations such as addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication. We also talked about algebra dominoes in one of our earlier posts. Following a similar trend, hand2mind developed a version of dominoes as a manipulative for learning about decimals.

It includes 30 plastic dominoes with either numerical values or values represented by circles or bars. Learn about the various mathematical operations with a special focus on fractions and decimals. Similarly in a typical matching dominoes game, here you have to find equivalent fractions or decimal values to make matches with colorful dominoes

3. Decimals Dice

A pair of dice is a must-have if you are looking for a math manipulative. Especially if you are looking for something stashed in the back of our cabinets or lying around the house. Mathematical operations are taught through this. Just roll two dice, and ask the student to add the values appearing on the two dice to get the sum, and for subtraction, take the values on the two dice and subtract to get the difference. Some teach place value through dice as well.

You see, there are endless possibilities for learning through a pair of dice. Learning Advantage took the same concept and blended it with the decimals. Yes.. you are right! Instead of numbers up to 6, these dice have decimal numbers as the dice values. Not only this, the whole pack has dice with up to thousandth place value, so there is a lot to learn. Each die is ten-sided so students can generate every possible number between 0 and 9, 999, 999. 999.

2. Number Line Activities

Decimal Ruler is even though a good manipulative but has limited use. It can be hard to explain negative values to young learners through it. Number Line board activities can be considered as an extension of the use of a ruler as a decimal manipulative. Not only decimals, but the Number line is also a complete all-rounder package to have hands-on experience with different mathematical concepts.

A total of 50 double-sided activity cards are included in this pack. Here the content cards can act as a check-off list. As per the manufacturer, ‘The front side provides teaching objectives, resources used and procedure. The other side provides visual examples.’ This product has fairly positive reviews with one user saying It is very helpful for homeschooling activities.

Other than decimals and fractions, this activity is also helpful in teaching odd & even numbers, greater than, less than, addition, subtraction, skip counting, multiple additions, tiding numbers, place value, reversibility, multiplication, and absolute value.

1. Decimal Tiles

Bigjigs Toys Educational Fractions Tray with Decimals

In our previous post on manipulatives, we talked about fraction tiles. These are really helpful in improving a child’s memory of fractions. Decimal Tiles play a similar role but for decimals. Memorizing some of the decimals on tips is important, especially if you are going to give any competitive examination where timing is everything.

Not every time you need to pick up pen and paper solving 3/4 when you already know that it’s 0.75 portions of the whole. You need to have a good understanding of fractions and decimals to easily remember how it works. Decimal Tiles as a math manipulative will help you deal with this part.

These aids help children get hands-on experience with decimals, providing a visual and tactile way to teach fractions, decimals, and their relationships. Color-coded pieces help little ones visualize and identify fractions with ease as they line up the tiles in the tray. Make your own game and rules while playing with the tiles. It will be really fun.

DIY Decimal Manipulatives

The cool thing I realized is that anything can be made manipulative if you’re smart enough. You can literally make use of the stuff lying around the house. You really don’t have to buy any expensive stuff or have to spend any dime. Back in the day, When I frequently visited my village, I observed how kids used to play tic-tac-toe and marbles on the sand.

Also, they used to lay bricks in a line and Compete with each other on who jumped the longest. Inspired by this, I used the concept of a line system to teach number line concepts to young learners. The bottom line is, we get to learn from anything happening around us. It is the question of how we observe it.

Similarly, with decimal manipulatives, there are a lot of possibilities. Let us take the example of the decimal tiles we discussed in this post. If you don’t feel like buying. Just take a chart paper and cut out the fractions as given in the product. It’s as simple as that. Similarly, you don’t have to buy the decimal dice. If you’re comfortable, take the common ones and ask the kids to consider the dots as the decimal values (like three dots are 0.3,0.003..etc.).

In essence,

Learning to work with decimals is necessary because we are required to deal with them frequently in our everyday lives. Children often find this mathematical concept a bit tricky and therefore struggle to comprehend the topic. This confusion is mainly due to the fact that decimal math is not the same as regular math and comes with its own set of rules.

As a teacher who puts the interests of students before anything else, you can make the subject of decimals more interesting and engaging by using some of the manipulatives we have mentioned in this post. Frequent use of these manipulatives will help bring clarity and enhance your student’s knowledge of this complex mathematical subject.

Leave a Comment