Boy, isn't it fun to look at all those great manipulatives to go with your new math program? Nice until you look at the price, that is. Talk about sticker shock!
With a little creativity, you can save yourself nearly all of the $50 to $65 required to buy that new manipulative set. Following are some of our common substitutions:
We use the small, square Legos in place of linking cubes.
Hundreds charts can be printed for free off the Internet. Just do a search for "printable hundreds chart" and laminate with contact paper.
Why buy play money? Use the bills from your Monopoly set and real change.
A simple Geoboard can be made from a square piece of wood and 25 finishing nails. Draw a grid of five evenly spaced vertical and horizontal rows and place nails on the intersections. This is a great homeschool project in its own right!
Color tiles can also be replaced with square Legos. Another alternative is to laminate sheets of construction paper and cut into squares with a paper cutter.
Mini clocks can easily be made with a circle, two hands, and a brass fastener in the center. Laminate with clear contact paper. Better yet, use a "real" clock.
Counting bears can be replaced with many things. We've used poker chips, checkers, Legos (again!), beans, whatever is handy.
For stringing beads, purchase macrame-type beads from your local craft store and string on a shoelace or use pasta strung on yarn. Use a computer or just color your own patterns for your children to copy.
If you're heart is set on owning these cool manipulatives rather than "making do," I highly suggest checking out your local Wal-Mart and Dollar Store. Wal-Mart consistently carries nearly all of these manipulatives for only a few dollars each. Buy your own Rubbermaid tote to keep them in and you've purchased a $60 set for about $20. Better yet, make frequent stops to your Dollar Store. Though it can't be counted on, just yesterday I picked up a package of Linking Shapes and Stringing Bears for $1 each. Did we need them? No, but for that price, they're fun to have. And don't forget yard sales! Dominos and poker chips can regularly be had for a mere 25 cents. Happy Learning!
Dena Wood is a homeschooling Mom of five and co-owner of TimesTales.com, a site committed to encouraging creative, innovative and fun learning
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