Dice, subitizing cards, center tubs, number lines – oh my! Our 1st grade math routines require so many resources and manipulatives. While Donors Choose, Go Fund Me accounts, and school funds are great options, homemade math tools can be a simple, inexpensive way to stock our math toolboxes!
Today I’ve shared some of my favorite and most-used math tools and resources that I’ve made for students! While I shared some of my all time Guided Math favorites, these tools are a little more affordable. I’ve included blog post links and Amazon affiliate links for easy shopping and reading throughout.
Ideas for Using Math Tools
Even if you already have these math tools in your classrooms, there are so many uses and reasons to make small and more inexpensive sets.
- Send Home with Students – These homemade tools are perfect for sending home with students. Perfect for at-home practice or resources for homework, you don’t have to worry about these tools making it back to school!
- Math Centers – Do you ever have multiple math centers that need the same supplies? Rather than choosing a different center, these homemade supplies are a simple and inexpensive way to make sure you have the materials in all of your centers!
- Family Volunteers – I teach at a school blessed with many parent volunteers and university students. I love having a Math Toolbox ready for these awesome adults. Regardless of what we are learning about, I can add one of each of these tools and the adult and student are ready to learning and practice!
- Guided Math – My guided math groups are big – honestly, too big but that’s a story for another day – and sometimes getting 8 of one supply is expensive! These homemade math tools are inexpensive to make, which is perfect for this teacher’s budget!
Bead Racks ($7.54)
Before a math training in June, bead racks weren’t part of my math toolbox. My students saw them on DreamBox, an online math program, but we didn’t have them in our classrooms so I did not teach with them! After seeing these in action and after finding this FREE e-book with math talks and activity ideas, I knew I needed to make them!
Using the box from my latest Amazon order, red and white beads, and some elastic string and I was ready to go! I made bead bracelets with 10 beads on them (5 red and 5 white). Then, I stretched them over the cardboard. I prefer this way, rather than punching holes in the cardboard, because it makes the bed racks easy to level. Math groups can easily add and take away groups of 10 to get a just-right number for them!
We use 5 red and 5 white because the fluency standards in Kindergarten is 5, so this becomes a benchmark. Once students have mastered 5, having different colors allows students to easily subitize 5 – doubling it, counting back, counting forward, adding other groups of numbers to it. (If you’re looking for other ideas, check out this FREE 46-page Ebook from The Math Learning Center.)
Dot Cards ($3.99)
Subitizing is the ability to quickly identify groups of objects. As students are able to subitize and quickly identify dot patterns, they are learning number combinations. It’s the perfect way to introduce composing and decomposing numbers without even writing numbers. Showing students dot patterns and asking what they see is a perfect number talk for beginning-of-the-year first graders. While some friends might immediately see 5, others may see 4 and 1, and some may still need to individually count the 5 dots. Regardless, it gives you – as the teacher – a glimpse into their math thinking and is a simply way to get students talking about numbers!
I quickly and cheaply made these dot pattern cards with half-sheets of cardstock and Avery circle stickers! Add a binder rings keeps the cards easy to storage next to my SMART Board. You never know when you might have a few extra minutes for a number talk, so I like to have talks handy!
Pipe Cleaner Number Lines ($2.39)
Using pipe cleaners, left-over beads from your bead racks, and these FREE number line templates, you can create simple number lines that meet the needs of all of your learners. Different than a traditional number line, these number lines offer a bit more tactile experiences for learners who need to physically move a marker along a number line.
Punching a hole at the top and bottom of the number lines, you slide the pipe cleaner and bean through the holes and fold the ends over. I did add a piece of tape to the back to keep our littles from being poked by the ends of the pipe cleaner!
Ziploc Number Lines ($3.32)
I love the above number lines for students who need to physically manipulate a number line and love the option below for learning-on-the-go. When we have random minutes in the hallway, parent volunteers working with students in our learning nooks, or outside math with task cards – this is my go-to number line. Plus, the materials couldn’t be less expensive! Anytime I need more number lines or number lines with different numbers, I grab some baggies from my kitchen and bring them to school!
Using the baggie slider as a place holder, makes these number lines portable and inexpensive to make. Plus, these baggies can carry task cards inside the baggie, perfect for learning on the go or in different places! They are so simple to differentiate and if they are torn or wet, it’s no big deal.
If you’re looking to stock your classroom with lots of math tools but are cash-strapped, these are some of my go-to math tools! Are there other math tools you’ve made for your classroom? I’m always looking for new ideas and love to hear what works in your classroom.
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