Hi, it’s Jessi from Cooties and Cuties, and I am so excited to share some of my favorite Amazon finds with you! Before we get started, though, I have a teacher confession: For the first six years of my career, I hated math. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to teach in a departmentalized school so I didn’t have to teach math, but I still hated the thought of ever having to. But alas, in my seventh year of teaching, the inevitable came true when I moved out of state and had to face my fears for the first time. The first couple of years were rough, but slowly, as I began to discover the wonders of math manipulatives. I realized that fun, engaging math manipulatives not only helped my students enjoy math, but they helped me enjoy teaching math, too!
Once I began to incorporate more manipulatives and rigorous math challenges into my instruction, it quickly became one of my favorite subjects to teach. This year, I added two of my all-time favorite manipulatives to my collection. What I love most about these manipulatives is that my students will do ANYTHING if they get to play with them, and that includes working harder than they’ve ever worked before.
So without further ado, here are my top two favorite math manipulatives… for the moment.
Giant UNO Cards – When I say giant, I mean it. These things are bigger than most of my students’ torsos. Maybe that’s what makes them so engaging. And they’re not just for games of UNO. We’ve used them for place value, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and fractions. Basically, if you need to create numbers for any game, activity or task, you will love the Giant UNO cards – they have endless possibilities!
Double Dice – These things are genius. They are mini dice WITHIN dice. For each roll, students get two digits that can be used to create a number. Students can use the two digits as tens and ones, add them together, double them, multiply them or many other countless options. I have never in my life seen kids get so excited over a simple die, but they beg and beg to play with these.
These two additions to my manipulative collection have transformed our already exciting math class into the most fun math class in the history of math classes (that might be a slight exaggeration). They’re so fun, in fact, that they’ve inspired a series of math games called the Unlock the Learning Series. In December, I teamed up with another Giant UNO, Double Dice-loving teacher named 2nd Grade Sassy Pants to create Unlock the North Pole, a game that sends students on a journey through challenges on their way to the North Pole. Our kids had so much fun, we were inspired to create a second Valentine-themed game, Unlock the Love, and have a third game already in the works! (*update from TLA: You can now get the entire UNLOCK BUNDLE HERE)
In Unlock the Love, we turn our classroom white board into a giant game board, and students are asked to save the Most Very Honored Head Monster from being frozen in time forever. To save him, they must complete a series of rigorous math challenges. As they complete each challenge, students move their game piece along the journey to the next challenge until they reach (and save) the Head Monster. The challenges are tough, but students are blinded by the Double Dice and Giant UNO Cards and don’t even realize how hard they are working!
Students happily use the Double Dice to create missing addends and subtrahends for addition and subtraction problems. There are no audible complaints about having to use specific computation strategies or create their own tricky word problems. They are just too excited to grab those dice and hear that “clink, clink” dice on dice action!
With the Giant UNO cards, students draw numbers to represent digits for multi-step place value challenges. Once digits are drawn, students create two and three-digit numbers, thinking about questions like, “What is the smallest three-digit number you can create? What is the largest three-digit number you can create?” Another bonus of the GIANT UNO cards is that they include four different colors (red, yellow, green and blue) so you can easily set out 4 different sets of digits at one time and the students can easily keep them organized.
Because these incredible manipulatives exist, math is now my most favorite subject to teach AND my students’ favorite subject to learn. But the best part of using them is that they allow me to challenge my students without them realizing it! Even my most reluctant math students have learned to work hard and persevere, all while having fun at the same time.
I hope I have convinced you that you and your students NEED these amazing math manipulatives for your classroom. Thanks so much for letting me crash the blog today! You can find Unlock the Love and much more on my TPT page.