Math Manipulatives: Making the Most of Our Math Kit

Making Math Fun With Manipulatives

I purchased the Saxon Home Study Math Kit that is full of manipulatives to accompany our first grade math program. My kids are hands-on so I knew this would be a necessary addition to our studies. I didn’t know however, that I would use it as much as I do. The Saxon math program I purchased through Houghton Mifflin recommends this kit, and many of the lessons include activities that use the contents. And once you purchase the kit, you’re set for the next 3 years. Or four, if you purchase it for kindergarten, as K-3 math programs incorporate products from this kit into the curriculum.

Homeschool Math Manipulatives Kit

Inside the kit you’ll find two rulers, a balance, linking cubes, a number chart, 2 pegboards with rubber bands, bear counters, pattern blocks, 4 sets of tangrams, two clocks, dominoes, color tiles, and more. You’re pretty much set if you’ve got this guy in your math ensemble – Oh! and it comes in a plastic storage box so you don’t have to figure out where you’re going to put everything. Even if you’re not using the Saxon math program, this kit is awesome and I highly recommend it.

Yes, we use it for our math assignments. And yes, I keep it up high on a shelf where tiny hands can’t reach it without permission. But it’s so much more than that. My son loves tangrams. Let me rephrase that. My son LOVES tangrams. He did them in kinder and it became a thing for him, so I was happy that they came with this kit. The other day I offered him 15 minutes of TV time if he finished his assignment in a timely manner and he asked if he could trade it for tangrams. What the heck? Sure! I searched for tangram puzzles online. There are lots of sites that have tangram puzzles but I wanted the kind that you can fit the pieces into rather than the kind you have to look at and recreate on the table. has a small but good selection of tangram puzzles so I printed some from them. Pattern blocks get a similar response in my house. They love the puzzle effect. So I printed pattern block puzzles, too.


pattern block monsters

My kids love Lego’s, but linking cubes serve a similar purpose and they will sit and create with linking cubes any chance they get. They also build domino creations on the floor. Sometimes pictures, sometimes domino towers, but they still have a hard time keeping them all standing. We use the balance for some of our science activities, and the bear counters are one of my preschoolers’ favorites. We’ve used everything in the kit at least once. In fact, the other day I needed a distraction for my little one so I could finish a lesson with my first grader and I gave her the whole box. I could have used a clean up crew at the end, but she had a great time balancing her bears and trying out all the fun colorful pieces in the math kit.

Do you use manipulatives for your math work? What are some of your favorite things to use?


Good Days and Bad Days


school bus bookworm homeschool

As a new homeschooler I’ll tell you that there is no shortage of days that seem to blow up in my face. Maybe it’s a slight change to the routine, maybe we just woke up on the wrong side of bed. Whatever the reason, some days are not great. And on those not great days, I ask myself, “What am I doing?” But I find peace in the words of seasoned homeschoolers who say the first year is the hardest. You find your rhythm. You find your routine. You find what works and what doesn’t. Families who have four, five, even ten years of homeschool under their belts are going to have bad days.

On those days I ask my son if this is what he wants, and he has consistently answers “yes”. Even on the bad days. When I think I’m doing something wrong, I think about our kindergarten class in public school. There was a behavior chart, and if you weren’t having a great day, you had to move your clip down. If you were having a fantastic day, sometimes you got to move your clip up. I don’t have any clips. But I know that even in a public school classroom, some days will be good and others won’t go so well. And I was okay with that then, so I should be understanding of it now.

Monday for us was a nightmare. Every assignment was a fight and transitions were horrible. Today, I took a different approach and started the day off with a fun activity. Leftover marshmallows from Thanksgiving’s candied yams allowed us to build with toothpicks and marshmallows. Then, we used them to make snowmen and igloos. The rest of the day we eased into new subjects with care and each was a success.

marshmallow shapes


In addition to regular math worksheets we used our hundred chart to talk about counting by tens and we used tangrams to build puzzles. We used the internet to research the Mojave Desert for our study of environments and printed out the Junior Ranger Handbook to get to know the plants and animals that inhabit the area. We worked in our social studies handbook and completed step two of our new program All About Spelling. When school was over, the kids cleaned the living room and then spent well over an hour playing with Play-doh. I made homemade spaghetti for lunch and homemade clam chowder for dinner. Yesterday we ate take-out chinese. Every day is different. If you are new to homeschool like us, embrace the amazing moments. There will be more of them, I just know it.




What are your struggles with homeschool? I’d love to start a conversation about challenges and how we adapt to the ever-changing children that we teach and love.