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HOW TO ORGANIZE MATH MANIPULATIVES in the CLASSROOM

Math manipulatives at math centers and math stations end up everywhere during math workshop, guided math, and other hands-on learning opportunities! Read this blog post to find out how I found storage solutions that actually work like containers, bins, baskets, tubs, drawers, shelves, and more.

According to the Common Core, students need to “use appropriate tools strategically.” This means that your students need to be able to access materials independently.  Let’s be honest. You could easily fill all of your classroom storage space with math manipulatives. There are just so many cool, hands-on tools for kids to use to explore math concepts.  This is why teaching math is my favorite!

Unless you want your room to quickly become a mess, you also need to implement storage techniques that allow for students to easily return materials they have used (or found on the floor).  The materials you have will vary depending on the grade level you teach, but there are lots of manipulatives that span across several grades. Read below for some tips for storing the most common math manipulatives!

This blog post will…

  • share tips and ideas for organizing and storing your math materials
  • guide you towards finding low cost storage options for math manipulatives

Storage Solutions for Specific Math Manipulatives

  • Rulers: Due to the fact that they are longer than most containers, I like to store my rulers in an open-ended container without a top. I find an oatmeal canister or a Pringles can that has been covered with decorative paper to match my classroom is the perfect solution. You may want to weigh down the bottom to prevent tipping.
  • Dice: We use dice for a variety of games and activities. I keep a collection of them in a Crystal Lite container. 
  • Pattern Blocks, Cubes, and Other Manipulatives: Deep, open-top containers are great for storing these types of manipulatives because kids can easily grab what they need and it makes it easy for lost pieces to be returned to the collection. I use small trash cans because they are narrow for storing on my shelves yet deep enough to hold many pieces.
  • Tangrams and Pentominoes: Because these items are used in a set it is important to have a system for keeping them together when not in use. A simple and cost-effective solution is to use small zipper bags to hold one set together. I then keep the baggies together in a larger container.

Storage Tools and Tips

  • Small parts storage cabinets: These are not only available at most home improvement stores, but are really handy for holding enough manipulatives for one student to use. This is a great option if you have a student with an IEP or 504 who uses a variety of hands-on materials as you could fill the drawers with the child’s supplies for easy access.
  • The Trofast bins and storage unit: This product from Ikea come in a variety of sizes. They are great because the kids can slide the entire bin out and take it to a work area. These are perfect if you use the workbox method I describe in my Guide to Organizing and Managing Math Workshop.
  • Take Pictures: Taking a picture of your math manipulatives in their bucket and printing the images in color is a wonderful way to label containers for the littlest learners. Be sure to also add a label with words to encourage literacy skills.

{photo sources 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 }

5 Ways to Store Math Manipulatives in Your Classroom

As an elementary teacher, you know how many math manipulatives you need to help your students develop strong conceptual understandings of the math concepts and skills.  With all of these math manipulatives comes a need for strong organization and storage solutions.

Whether you use a math manipulative storage shelf, set of bins, or a cart, the ideas below will serve as a helpful resource that will help you stay on budget as you prepare for back to school.  This blog post won’t go into detail about everything you need for organizing for math, but I offer a guided math resource that has an entire section dedicated to getting organized for teaching math as well as additional math storage solutions.  If you need additional support with organizing your math resources and establishing storage systems of your math manipulatives, check the resource out here!

  1. Oatmeal Containers: These work great for organizing and storing rulers, which are too long for most containers.  Metal or plastic vases also work well for storing rulers.  You can either enjoy oatmeal at home and bring the container in or ask for donations from your family and friends, or students’ families.
  2. Hanging Shoe Organizers: These are perfect for organizing task cards.  Bring in one of these organization tools from home (if you have one lying around somewhere) for school.  Another option is to order an inexpensive one online.
  3. Hardware Tool Boxes: The small compartments work really well for organizing small erasers and counters.  Check to see if you have one in your basement or garage that you can bring into school.
  4. Plastic Sterilite Drawers: These drawers are perfect for holding cubes and the best part is that students can take the entire drawer to a work area.  There are so many variations available online, so you can find one that perfectly meets your individual needs.
  5. Pringles Cans: These work for almost any math manipulative.  Similar to the oatmeal container, ask for donations from your loved ones or student’s families or enjoy a salty snack you can scoop up from the grocery store.  You can even upcycle them with pretty scrapbook paper and cute accents from stores like Dollar Tree and Michaels.
Math manipulatives at math centers and math stations end up everywhere during math workshop, guided math, and other hands-on learning opportunities! Read this blog post to find out how I found storage solutions that actually work like containers, bins, baskets, tubs, drawers, shelves, and more.

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