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Homemade Math Manipulatives
by Gail Englert

A response to the question:

Do you have any ideas on homemade math manipulatives?

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Do you have any ideas on homemade math manipulatives? I am an education major for K-6. I have a class that requires 5 different sets of homemade math manipulatives. Do you have any good ideas to help me out?

Thank you so much,

Lisa

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Dear Lisa,

Here are a few ideas...

I cut a slit from the edge to the center of two different colored paper plates (cut a radius of each plate) and then slip the two plates together by turning one paper plate perpendicular to the other, and pushing the two slits together.

When you turn the plates, one color will slip by the other and create fractions.

Having students create their own fraction strips will help them with their fraction sense. Just give them strips of paper and have them fold and label halves for one strip, fourths for the next, and eighths for the next.

Thirds are more difficult for little fingers to manage, but older students should be able to work them out, and then you can easily get sixths.

Tangrams are also fun to make, and give students a chance to use quite a bit of geometry vocabulary in the process.

Fold a square in half diagonally, and cut or tear on that fold. (Folding repeatedly back and forth will weaken the paper enough so that it is easy to tear, and the torn edges will also provide a guide for students in solving the puzzle).

Set one of the triangles aside, and find the midpoint of the hypotenuse (the longest side of this right triangle). You can do this by folding the two "bottom" (acute -- smaller than right triangle) corners together, and creasing the fold just a bit right on the hypotenuse (the long edge of this right triangle, the edge opposite the right triangle). This fold doesn't need to go all the way up the edge to the other corner, since you only did it to mark the midpoint of that side. Fold the right angle corner down to meet the midpoint, and tear or cut on that fold. Set this triangle aside.

Fold one acute (smaller than a right angle -- it is one of the lower corners if you have the longest edge on the bottom) corner of the trapezoid in so it meets that same midpoint. Tear or cut. Set aside that small triangle.

The next step is the most difficult to explain without demonstrating... but I will try to do it clearly. Take one of the "upper" corners (an obtuse angle -- larger than a right angle) and fold it down to meet the same midpoint you have been using. Cut or rip on that fold, and set aside the parallelogram you have created.

Now you have a trapezoid left. Find the longest edge, and fold it to locate the midpoint (it should be the smae midpoint you already found!) Fold and tear or cut along that line. You should have a small square and a triangle. Those ore the seven pieces you need for the tangrams.

-Gail, for the T2T service

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