Best ways to use Base 10 Manipulatives

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All classroom teachings may tend to become monotonous or challenging when the students are forced to adopt conventional ways while learning maths or developing linguistic skills. By conventional ways, I mean books and guides here. And, it is a well-researched fact that children with learning difficulties do require a lot of additional supports. One of the research-backed learning supports are base 10 manipulatives.

I am sure you must have understood by now from various of our posts how base 10 manipulatives work as a great teaching tool for both homeschoolers and school-goers.

What do researchers say about Base 10 Manipulatives?

Base 10 Manipulatives offer an isomorphic presentation of several numeric values, and mathematical concepts.[1]

Various researchers and educators have advocated the use of base 10 manipulatives in the process of dispensing learnings. Some of the important observations on these manipulatives made by the noted researchers are:

  • Base-10 manipulatives are reliable and effective learning interventions for concepts like place value determination and basic arithmetical operations like addition, subtraction, etc. (Bartollini, 2011).
  • According to, the early concepts of mathematics were based on base 60. Base 10 and manipulatives based on it offered a more ‘ready-to-use’ way of inferring the value of any number given.
Babylonian numbers - to explain how base 10 solved calculation hassles
Babylonian numbers – to explain how base 10 solved calculation hassles
  • In the current scenario of a gadget-infested world, the Base 10 manipulatives are being studied to understand their utility and limitation for developing iPad-supported virtual teaching tools.

Taking cues from these researches, one can elucidate some of the best uses of Base 10 manipulatives in teaching and developing math-related confidence in students of primary level and above. These uses are explained in the coming section.

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Basic and most practical uses of Base 10 manipulatives

Base 10 manipulatives can help students develop profound and deeply ingrained learnings. These manipulatives offer a beautiful pretext to students to learn the basics of math and make a sound foundation from the very start. For instance, one can find them useful for:

  • Developing number sense: When children shift from mugging the numbers to understanding their corresponding value, base 10 manipulatives help a lot. One can develop number sense by the process of grouping base 10 blocks and learn all about them in an affirmative manner.
  • Build subitizing abilities: Subitizing means guessing the data set value without actually counting it. The group of items is really small, say up to 4 to 6 elements in it. Base 10 blocks can be broken down into unitary pieces, which teachers can employ to develop a sense of subitization in kids.
  • Learn mathematical operations: All manipulatives offer a tangible solution that can be maneuvered to develop an understanding of mathematical operations in kids at formative learning stages. Base 10 block sets, for example, are used by teachers to make kids comfortable with the idea of adding and subtracting at preschooler and primary levels. Complex topics like factors and multiples can also be taught in a playfully immersive manner using base 10 manipulatives like blocks, a stack of rings, and other similar ones.
  • Calculate place value: Every digit acquires a value by the virtue of its place in a number. This value, therefore, is called place value. Kids can make stacks of blocks and develop sets like hundreds, tens, and ones. Loop links, magnetic blocks or plastic blocks, or a stack of rings are some of the examples employable as base 10 manipulatives to scaffold students to learn place value as budding, early math learners.
  • Regrouping data sets: Teachers can give interesting tasks like break a block of 10 to two of fives, and so on. These simple tasks can be categorized as the regrouping of data sets. It helps in developing number sense and enhances calculation, division, and evaluation abilities. Parents and guardians can also utilize these data sets for guiding children and giving them an interactive learning session. The activity does require strategizing and yields more favorable outcomes when they choose to team with their wards to grasp concepts of basic maths.
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Interesting affordances of Base 10 manipulatives in building math concepts

Base 10 manipulatives can empower teachers with happening solutions to make an early math class interesting. These manipulatives come with affordances like:

  • Play material: Teachers can convert play hour into a learning-filled one by employing base 10 manipulatives as play material in classes. They can give heads-up to the children in advance and then drive them deeper into the game where outcomes are easy and ingrained development of math concepts.
  • Teaching tool: To make learning hassle-free for students, the teachers can switch to manipulatives. The idea of engaging kids in learning math concepts through participative means can create a collaborative environment in class.
  • STEM education support: Since these manipulatives are designed using materials that improve hand-eye coordination, muscular strength, and better-quality grip, the base 10 manipulatives offer a well-thought STEM education intervention material.

Summing up,

Learning will always find its way when both the teacher and student come together, collaborate, and develop a suitable premise for the same. Base 10 manipulatives offer the best alternative for the purpose and deserve to be in the repertoire of teaching tools. Try these now and share with us how these helped you in grooming children into confident mathematicians.


[1] The History of Base-Ten-Blocks: Why and Who Made Base-Ten-Blocks?, by Rina Kim Lillie R. Albert Boston College, Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences

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