Top 10 Math Manipulatives For High School Students

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Last Updated on April 1, 2022 by Editorial Team

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An important part of learning maths during class hours is to gain the knowledge of topic’s practicality. For teachers, it becomes necessary to embed such fundamentals early in teaching the subject. To achieve some extent of it, they often take the help of math manipulatives. If you have experience in teaching, then you must know the importance of manipulatives in kids learning a subject. Giving them a tangible asset to connect to for developing the basics of the concept. May it be gummy bears counters, calendar chart, or ubiflix cubes, they all helped us concretizing the concepts of mathematical operations right from kindergarten.

Now the real question is for how long we could rely on manipulatives? Do they work even when we get to the senior years of school? If so, what kind and how will they be used?

I’ve decided to answer this quite frequently asked question through this post.

There are a lot of varying opinions of the students on how they perceive the maths subject. A major number struggles in the subject and looks for an alternative to keep up with the pace. Especially for students with a learning disability such as dyscalculia, keeping up the pace in a subject is really hard. In all, math manipulatives find its way for importance in middle or high school as well. Students need on-hands manipulatives to master certain parts of the subject. This applies to even those who are good at maths. So for this post, I’ve curated a list of the 10 best math manipulatives for high schoolers.

1. Abacus

abacus math manipulative for high school

Abacus is a great way of learning various mathematical operations such as addition, division, and multiplication. Early adapting to abacus as math manipulative really benefits in the long term. Good practice makes you able to do calculations really fast.

Starting from basic level abacus formula operations, students can climb their way to lengthy calculations. For high school students, consistent practice with the abacus gives them an edge over their competition during numerical exams. There are different types of abacus to learn about with different applications.

2. Algebra Tiles

algebra tiles complete set math manipulatives for high school

Algebra tiles as math manipulative is probably the best investment for a beginner who wants to build a solid foundation of algebra concepts. Algebra is a topic that you can hardly skip any part of. If you do, there is a high possibility that understanding it is completely out of your reach as you jump to higher levels.

Algebra is one of the major factors responsible for the math exam fear for students in high school, especially those with dyscalculia and other learning disability. Teachers can specifically target those students with algebra tiles. If you want to practice it by yourself, then we highly recommend you looking at 5 solid examples to understand algebra tiles as a beginning.

3. Cuisenaire Rods

cuisenaire rods math manipulative for high school

Cuisenaire Rod is frequently used (Sometimes in combination) as math manipulatives to explain a variety of math concepts to early learners. Sometimes teachers use it to refer to the variable part of the algebra tiles.

Other than this, Cuisenaire rods are also used majorly as manipulative for practicing different bar charts, statistics, and general arithmetic operations such as counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, and geometry. Kids learn measurement sense early in life. Furthermore, these Cuisenaire rods are great for reinforcing the concept of whole numbers, arithmetic operations, ratio, symmetry, congruence, and patterns.

4. Algebra Math Stacks

algebra math stacks game math manipulative for high school

Two-step algebra math stacks game by EAI Education is perfect manipulative for those high schoolers who want to practice and boost their algebraic skills. It tests your mental math abilities. Math stacks game consists of 60 cards, of which 20 starter cards and 40 match cards.

In typical gameplay, Players take turns to draw match cards. After drawing, the player is required to look for the equivalent starter card and place the match card on it. Once a three-card stack is made, it can be collected. The person with the most stacks at the end of play wins! Math stacks got fairly positive reviews. One user said it is perfect for algebra class and gives students a competitive but fun environment to practice their skills.

5. Math Balance with Weights

math balance with weights math manipulative for high school

High schoolers struggling in early algebra should try math balance with weights at least once. This math manipulative helps students visualize the early algebraic expressions deep embedding basic concepts. This is done by balancing equivalent numbers on both sides. It is, however, not just limited to algebra.

The math weight balancing is adaptable to many other math concepts such as developing number sense, manipulating number relationships of equal to (=), greater than (>), less than (<). The method is quite effective in building basic math concepts as students can literally take math into their own hands, work towards solutions to math equations and finally see the results!

6. Magnetic Fraction Tiles

magnetic fraction tiles math manipulative for high school

If not on tips, fractions can be irritating. Especially for high schoolers who are preparing for some competitive examination where timing is everything. Looks easy but the actual challenge is when you have to solve it in a tight time frame.

Not every time you need to pick up pen and paper solving 3/4 when you already know that it’s 75% of the whole. You need to have a good understanding of fractions to easily remember how fractions work and how to remember them. Magnetic Fraction Tiles as a math manipulative will help deal with this part. These magnetic aids help learners visualize the fractions and related concepts like parts to the whole, equivalents, and comparisons. Make your own game and rules while playing with magnetic fraction tiles. It will be real fun.

7. Graphics Calculator

graphics calculator math manipulative for high school

Graphics Calculator, as the name suggests, is a calculator with high-level functionalities. Considered as a potential to revolutionalize mathematical education, It is used in the classroom generally to leap hurdles, speed, and making connections among models and other graphical representations. But the real question is if it can be used as a math manipulative?

Well, the answer is…YES. There are a lot of studies that actually support the role of graphics calculators in improving algebra and calculus. However, the method in which it is used matters too. You can expect a student to improve if he/she just relies on a graphics calculator for every other problem. Making sure they actually learn the concepts through it is important. Students can try out the different possibilities and connecting those with inputs.

8. Centimeter Grid Dry-Erase Boards

Centimeter Grid Dry-Erase Boards math manipulative for high school

Centimeter Grid Dry-Erase Boards are quite popular manipulatives among teachers who want to teach data collection and statistics in an interactive way. Teaching on a class board is one thing, but giving the students to try out individually will create an interest to a whole another level. It encourages classroom participation which is so much required in learning these topics.

Students can prepare their own data and build different bar graphs using that data. Furthermore, it helps develop their measurement sense. The reusability of the boards gives students endless possibilities to try out to improve their skills. Even though this is mostly used for early learners but teachers can level up the tasks to try out for high schoolers. Try it with drawing equations and graphical representations of various algebraic expressions.

9. Algebra Dominoes

algebra dominoes math manipulative for high school

Dominoes have been used widely as a manipulative to teach mathematical operations such as addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication to little learners. Inspired by the same, Junior Learning developed algebra dominoes for higher grade students. It tests the ability of a student to solve the algebraic equations to win the matching dominoes game. Algebra dominoes do have fairly positive reviews. One user says, “It reinforces the skills taught in school and they can master the skills by doing it in a fun way.”

To play the matching game, First dominoes need to be placed facing down. 4 players divide the dominoes (7 for each). The turns start when one player places a starting domino and other players take turns to match the end of the domino to form a chain. If a player can’t place a domino, then they must pick up a spare from the pile. The player who played all of his/her dominoes first wins.

10. Hands-on Trigonometry Proofs

Hands-on Trigonometry Proofs math manipulative for high school

Hands-on trigonometry proof is a good tool for those students struggling with concepts of trigonometry relations. It improves your understanding of various trigonometric topics such as Pythagorean identity, a sum formula, a double-angle formula, and two sum-to-product formulas.

As per my experience with teaching trigonometry (especially the topics of height and distance), visualization plays a very important role. This serves the exact purpose. Students will be given pieces that they have to rearrange to form the correct identity by establishing equalities of areas or lengths. This hands-on approach just enhances your learning to whole another level. The tangible aspect of this manipulative makes abstract relationships real and believable. If you are more into the digital approach to learning, then you must check out 8 cool games for learning trigonometry. However, students struggling with beginner’s concepts of trigonometry must try this tool for once.

How to effectively use math manipulatives for high school?

The list of math manipulatives doesn’t just end here. There are ample products that can be used as manipulative. But the thing is, if not used correctly with proper measures then it will be just a waste of time rather being a new learning experience. One sure-shot way of getting the maximum out of these tools is individual learning and classroom participation. As in the abacus example, you can’t just teach operations by lecturing on it. Let the students experience it on-hands and let them make mistakes. Discuss how to improve with the lessons learned.

Students must be encouraged to go out of the box and try new things related to the concept. Encourage the students to go practical nature of the topic and how it applies to real life. This is best explained in the case of trigonometry concepts where teachers can actually explain the height and distance topic with real poles and buildings. This one is included in our list of best intervention strategies for students struggling in maths. Do check out.


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