Math = Love: Q&A: Classroom Supplies and Manipulatives

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Q&A: Classroom Supplies and Manipulatives


What are some of your favorite manipulatives to use in math class?


This question reminded me of a post I set out to do a year ago.  Last year, as I was cleaning up my classroom for the summer, I decided I should do a blog post about what manipulatives and supplies I keep in my cabinet in my classroom.  I took all the pictures, but I never actually got around to writing the post.  So, these pictures are now a year old, but they're still a pretty good representation of what you'll find in my cabinets.

So, I present to you: Things in Ms. Hagan's cabinet.  Some are manipulatives.  Others are just random stuff that sometimes comes in useful for my classroom.

Storage Tubs for Each Group of Desks - I used these my first year of teaching.  Things got unorganized way too fast.  Haven't used them since...

Pattern Blocks - I have to admit that I actually haven't ever used these for anything...

Toothpicks - Great for Visual Patterns or Calculating Pi

Coordinate Grid Stamps - I inherited these from the previous math teacher.  My students have used these a handful of times, but the ink seems to bleed through the paper too much to be able to write on both sides of the paper.

Wax Paper - Perfect for making parabolas

Walk-On Number Line - My mom picked this up for me at a yard sale.  I think this would be really cool to use to make a human dot plot.

Spinners - These were also inherited from the previous teacher.  I need to find a way to incorporate these into my statistics class next year!

Ping Pong Balls - I picked these up in the Target Dollar Spot.  I still haven't found a project to use them for.  I know they will come in handy one day, though!

Graphing Calculators - Not sure I need to explain my having these...

Scissors - Necessary for making foldables!

Rulers - I keep a tub of rulers out at all times for my students to use whenever necessary.

Dry Erase Erasers - I promise I've got newer ones since then.  But, they probably look just as bad as these now.

Liquid Glue - I prefer stick glue for foldables, but every once in a while, my kids need liquid glue for a project.  My classroom has become to the go-to place to come for supplies when my students have projects to do for other classes.

Colored Markers - Absolutely necessary for pretty INB pages!  Plus, math is more fun in marker.

Dry Erase Markers

Foam Dice - I also bought tiny foam cubes at Dollar Tree to use to make my own dice.

Colored Pencils



Measuring Tapes

Folding Meter Sticks

Glue Sticks

Rubber Bands - Necessary for Barbie Bungee.  I've done Barbie Bungee for the last two years and still haven't blogged about it.

Playing Cards and other Statistics Supplies - I picked up the mini-roulette wheel at a yard sale.  We used it in statistics last year to model the probability of winning various casino games.  And, don't worry, I threw out the game cards that were meant for a bachelorette party.

Protractors - I don't teach geometry, but I might need these someday...

Popsicle Sticks - These came in handy for making gummy bear launchers in stats.

Barbies and Wrestling Dudes -  It's amazing that after two years of bungee jumping that they are still all alive!  ;)

Dry Erase Sleeves

Dry Erase Boards

Cap Erasers.  My students are always in need of erasers.

Library Pockets - I bought these to make a ZAP game, but I still haven't done that.

Tangrams - I used these as a challenge on the first day of school to demonstrate mindset.  Occasionally, students will still pull them out of the cabinet to play with them.

Foam Washers - I keep thinking that I will use these as a sort of game piece, but it hasn't happened yet.

Paint - This is leftover from painting my classroom.  Occasionally, I do have to touch up the walls.  Last summer, they took the radiators out of our classrooms, so I had to paint behind the radiator.

Miscellaneous Tubs - These have served so many purposes.  Colored Pencil holders.  Sorting tubs.

Tennis Balls - I used these for a linear regression lab.

De-Icer - This has nothing to do with teaching.  It's just a reflection of my fear that my car will ice over while I'm at school, and I won't be able to make it home.  Better safe than sorry.

Sidewalk Chalk - Last year, I let my Algebra 2 students go outside and graph hyperbolas on the sidewalk.

Mini Trash Cans - I thought that I would let students put paper scraps in these as they did cutting at their desk.  But, they soon started throwing random trash in them.  Now, I just make my kids get up and walk to the trash can.  Maybe I'll try these again next year???

Sand Timers - Perfect for games and activities

Though these sand timers are a bit weird.  They look like they would all be three different amounts of time.  But, they all empty in exactly three minutes.

Tools - Because you never know when you might need to fix something.  The most used tool in here would be the tape measure!

Binder Clips :D

Cleaning Supplies


Flip Chutes - These function as function machines in my classroom.  But, I'm sure I could come up with multiple other uses for them!

Clear Picture Frames - I bought these on the recommendation of another blogger.  They use them for station instructions.  But, confession - I've never actually done stations with my students.

Toy Cars - I will come up with a lesson that involves these someday.

COLORED PAPER - best classroom tool ever!

Pocket Charts - I planned on using these to sort names for student groups.  That didn't happen this year, though.

Filetastics - I got excited when I found these at Mardel for 75% off.  But, I only have space to hang one of these in my classroom.  :(

Fly Swatters - Not for actually killing flies.  That would be gross.  We use them for the fly swatter game.

Red/Yellow/Green Cups for Group Work

IQ Circle Puzzles - These were also used on the first day of school for a mindset activity.

Post-It Notes - It is not possible to have too many of these.

Giant rubber bands for closing student interactive notebooks

Traffic light stickers - Honestly, I forgot that I had bought these.  I planned to use them for student self-assessment.  I guess I should make this a goal for next year.

Page flags to mark units in INBs - I'm not sure if these were worth the hassle...

White-Out - I have too many students who insist on writing in pen.  I loan out white-out a lot.

 Popsicle Stick Containers for Each Class - This year I wrote each student's name on a popsicle stick.  I used these to randomly call on students.

Mini-Envelopes - These worked perfectly for keeping unfinished INB projects together.  We also used them to hold our flashcards that I have yet to blog about.

Cute notes - Sometimes I think I was probably meant to be an elementary teacher...

Shower Curtain Coordinate Plane

So, these aren't currently in my classroom.  They're lids that I stole from my kitchen that we used in trig to trace circles.  Math manipulatives don't have to be fancy!

Pipe Cleaners - We used these to discover radians.  I've also used them to demonstrate the vertical line test.

We also made our own clinometers this year in trig.  Paper, paper clips, glue, string, and a washer make a pretty nifty tool for figuring out how tall our school building is.


  1. Hi Sarah! Love getting to look into your cupboards! You mentioned a couple of times that you use some of your materials in stats. Do you teach a full course of stats (AP or otherwise)? If so, do you use INBs with your students? I would love to see a post or two on how you use them in statistics. I have made a few items for my AP students, but am really interested in your perspective if you use them regularly. Be glad to share as well. Thanks again for your inspiration in this post!

    1. My school only offers one math class above Algebra 2. It currently rotates between a year of trigonometry and a year of statistics. It is a non-AP level course. The first time I taught stats, I did not use the INBs. But, I am planning on using them this year for the first time with this course. I'll be sure to post stats pages once the year gets started!

  2. Sarah,

    I have some ideas for your ping pong balls:

    1) Balls to the Wall- write questions on the balls and then have student trow them at the wall and catch a ball when they bounce back, students then work out the problem and when finished everyone throws the balls again trying to catch a different ball each time. This can be used as a review game, class practice or a fun way to take a quiz. It will be a little wild but lots of fun. Students can trade balls when they have one they have already completed or if lots of students have repeats then you can have another throwing round.

    2) Lottery- write answers on the balls, have a list of questions for students to pick like 5 and work out, students then list their answers in any order and that is their lottery numbers. You pick 5 balls and students win prizes for correct answers, in order gets a bigger prize than not in order, if no one has all 5 look for 4, 3...I think you get the idea :)

    I LOVE your blog, keep up the good work!! You are great teacher, you're students are so lucky to have you.

    1. Thanks Kelly! These are both great ideas! :D