9 Awesome Manipulatives For Teaching Graphs and Charts

Last Updated on October 10, 2022 by Editorial Team

Yes, we can always make a table to structure our data, but what if you have too much data? That is where graphs and charts come to your rescue. Graphs and charts are essential tools to analyze and visualize the data. They represent data in an organized way which helps us process content and make connections more easily. Students who are new to the subject find it arduous to understand graphs and charts at first. For this very reason, graphs and charts have been taught in middle school for years now. However, the teaching method doesn’t have to be an old-school method, and it can be fun! 

In such situations, teachers can introduce Manipulatives, which are educational instruments used to teach abstract ideas of mathematics in a fun way. Anything from clay to coins can be used to break down complex jargon. We now have computer apps, games, tools, etc. as well that help a student learn things easier. These are all examples of manipulative tools in learning. 

Being a multi-sensory approach, it indulges, engrosses, and pushes a child to think and solve problems using smarter methods. 

In this post, you will find:

  • How do manipulatives help students?
  • How do manipulatives help in learning graphs and charts?
  • Manipulatives for learning graphs And charts

How do manipulatives help students?

From abstract reasoning to making the ideas concrete, manipulatives help students understand a concept without the involvement of books. 

Manipulatives help students in the following way –  

  • It provides a first-hand interaction to students, which helps them understand mathematics.
  • It brings meaning to abstract mathematical ideas in the minds of students
  • These tools visibly explain relationships between different mathematical concepts a lot easier.  
  • Manipulatives expose students to real-life scenarios and logical tests, which helps in developing reasoning skills in students. 
  • It involves the physical representation of mathematical concepts.
  • Manipulatives encourage students to unleash their creativity & play with math.
  • They find the learning process enjoyable rather than a drag.
  • When practised through manipulatives, students can retain concepts like graphs and charts for a longer time. This is because manipulatives encourage more practical use of these concepts. 
  • Manipulatives show how a concept is used in real life and its importance in the future, which also helps students understand the vitality of comprehending the concept. 

How does it help, particularly in learning graphs and charts?

Teachers try their level best to make students understand crucial concepts like Graphs and Charts. But sometimes, just the book and blackboard are not enough. Engaging students in activities and manipulatives helps the children to grasp better and retain forever. 

  • Sometimes graphs can be tedious and intimidating. Axis, Line graph, bar graph, pie-charts, Venn diagrams are probably crazy beasts in the mind of some students. But manipulatives make these beats less evil, as they enable students to comprehend these examples by carefully observing real-life examples. 
  • Learning this way creates a paradigm shift for students where they no longer fear the subject. 
  • Students do not look at manipulatives as a part of their studies because this teaching method involves students in fun activities and helps them understand such concepts uniquely. 
  • Some topics, when taught practically make a huge difference. Such is the case with graphs and charts. This is one concept that cannot make the grade by just blackboard teaching, and this is where manipulatives become efficacious. 

Manipulatives for learning graphs And charts 

1. Pictograph 


A pictograph represents data in the form of images. It helps students to visualize the data and analyze it better. One fun activity would be to draw grid lines on the ground and ask the students to collect leaves from different trees and plants. Make sure they don’t destroy the plant. Make a pictograph out of the leaves collected.

2. Cuisenaire Rods

Cuisenaire Rods

Cuisenaire rods can work as great data analysis tools because they look like a bar graph when joined together. Teachers can encourage students to use these rods as fraction bars and bar graphs. The teacher can ask a question, take a poll, and ask the students to plot the answers with the help of these rods. Cuisenaire rods work as great manipulatives because each block is of a different size, making it perfect for marking the answers of the poll. 

3. Human Graphing

Human Graphing

Teaching graphing by using humans as manipulatives can be another educational method. You can teach higher-standard students to plot the points on the line or curve using human graphing. Draw XY axis on the ground using marking chalk powder. Give the coordinates to students and ask them to stand on their respective positions on the XY plane. Here students act as points on a line or curve, and one student will connect all the dots with marking powder. Later, teachers can discuss the activity and the pointers related to it. 

4. Motivation Stampers

 Motivation Stampers

Motivational stamps are ink stamps that are engraved with motivational words like ‘great,’ ‘excellent,’ ‘loved it,’ and much more. These are ideal for teachers and are great motivational tools for students. But these motivational stampers can be used as manipulatives to learn about Graphs and Charts. 

Ask them to stamp based on a variety of questions or statements:

  1. How do you feel when appreciated? 
  2. How do chocolates taste?
  3. Tell a funny joke. 

They have to stamp on a sheet based on their moods and then form a graph using the information. The graph could be based on the number of children who gave similar responses. Students can also take out the percentage of each response and plot it on the graph.  

5. Connect 4

Connect 4 is a popular game among teens but did you know we could use Connect 4 to learn Mathematics? By labeling rows and columns appropriately, it is no less than graph paper. You can also teach the equation of a straight line using this manipulative. Once you fill up the horizontal and vertical lines and make them look like the X and Y axis, you can use other pieces as coordinates and use this game in place of your graphing sheet. 

6. Matchsticks As Tally Marks 

Matchsticks As Tally Marks 

In graphing the data, counting and arranging is crucial. When practicing graphing through activities, you can choose match sticks, which act as a great tool when you want to count your data. Through this activity, you can ask students to collect the data, arrange & graph it.

Topics could be – 

  1. The number of students having birthdays in different months of the year.
  2. Test scores in different subjects.
  3. Students who like the same color.
  4. Students who like the same subject.

7. Magnetic Sticks & Balls

Magnetic Sticks & Balls

Magnetic sticks and balls, when used as manipulatives, are fun as well as challenging. Ask students to make different shapes in different numbers through the given sticks and help them graph them. Similarly, you can also use lego blocks. Teachers can also introduce the concept of 3D Modeling as food for thought.

8. Snakes & Ladder- Roll A Die

Snakes and ladders have been a highlight of everyone’s childhood. But, once students grow up, this game can be used as a manipulative to teach them about graphs and charts.

After rolling the die, ask children to note the number they have got on each turn. Students can use tally marks for ease. After the game is over, teach them to make graphs based on their data.

We could use tally marks to note down how many turns each child got or graphs to see the most repetitive number on the roll. Graphs can also help add fun to the game by revealing which kid has won the most games. 

9. Ice Trays

Ice trays can be used as a teaching tool to mark the tallies of a poll taken. The teacher can join 3-4 ice trays side-to-side and conduct polls. The answer to the polls must be added to the ice trays.

For example, if the teacher conducts a poll about favourite subjects, and English gets the vote of 5 students, then five pieces of a particular eraser or any other piece to demarcate should be added to one column of the ice tray. For this, the teacher should label the columns beforehand. To make it more interesting, teachers can ask questions based on the poll taken, and then students need to answer by adding the erasers in the ice trays. 


Although intimidating for newcomers, the concept of graphing and charting data is one with long-term utility. Kids would need to perfect graphing and charting both. To make the learning easier and smoother, teachers can introduce the above-stated manipulatives as educational tools. These can be great teaching tools, which can seize students’ interest and help them learn effectively.

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