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Math Manipulatives

from Calvert School

Reviewed by Martha Robinson

Purchase details: Primary Math Manipulatives Kit ($185) and Intermediate Math Manipulatives Kit ($185), a math supplement by Calvert School.

Put simply, children learn better when they have hands-on activities. The people at Calvert School have put together a large selection of manipulatives designed to make math easier and more fun for young learners. Kits for two age ranges are available, and both kits may be purchased in the "Combined Manipulatives Kit."

Primary Math Manipulatives Kit

This kit is designed for children in kindergarten to third grade. A brief and basic lesson manual (20 pages organized by manipulative) offers some suggestions on how to use the manipulatives. An example topic or exercise, if applicable is shown below with the list of included items.

  • Color tiles of plastic -- patterning with the colors -- red, red, green, etc.
  • Pattern blocks of plastic-- puzzles -- "If a triangle = 1/2, what block = 1?"
  • Geoboard of 7" square plastic -- congruent shapes
  • Judy Clock of composite board, approximately 4" -- telling time
  • Tangrams, 4 plastic sets -- 8 shapes to duplicate
  • Dominoes, plastic with color dots in a box -- "Climb the Ladder" addition and subtraction game.
  • Base-Ten Blocks, red plastic (Ten 100s, twenty 10s, twenty ones, and 25 consumable mats for figuring) -- place value
  • Hundred Board, paper, 11.5" square -- counting
  • Balance, 2 piece plastic -- comparing mass
  • Cuisenaire Rods, plastic in box, 74 rods and tray with lid plus teachers guide -- fractions
  • Rainbow cubes, 100 3/8" in various colors -- use like color tiles
  • Flash cards made of paper in nice boxes. (Addition, subtraction, multiplication)
  • Thermometer, 5" with Fahrenheit and Celsius
  • Foam Geometric solids (cylinder, pyramid, cone, sphere, rectangular prism, cube) in various colors
  • Meter/yard stick, plastic folding
  • Unifix cubes, 35 total in three sizes, plastic

Intermediate Math Manipulatives Kit

This kit is designed for students in fourth to eighth grade. The lesson manual (38 pages) offers slightly more detail than the one for the "Primary" kit and is organized by topic. Some sample topics are as follows:

  1. Dividing by 1-Digit Numbers (using base-ten blocks)
  2. Equivalent Fractions (using fraction bars)
  3. Decimals (using base-ten blocks)
  4. Probability (using spinners, pattern blocks, die, etc.)
  5. Geometry (using tangrams)
  6. Capacity (using graduated cylinders and "volume relationship set")
  7. Signed numbers (using algebra tiles)
  8. Equations (using scale)

A list of the components of the kit is shown below:

  • Balance, 2 piece plastic
  • Base-Ten Blocks, red plastic (Ten 100s, fifty 10s, one hundred ones that connect to each other, 100 tenths, and one paper mat and one plastic mat for figuring) in a large plastic storage box
  • Color Spinner, plastic, 4.5" square
  • Cuisenaire Algebra Tiles
  • Fraction Bars, 49 thin plastic bars including halves, thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths, tenths, and twelfths
  • Geoboard, 9" square, plastic
  • "Decimeter Cube" -- paper, ready-to-be-folded base-ten 1000 cube
  • Graduated Cylinder set, 4 of various sizes, plastic
  • Multicolor Die, wooden, 5/8" square, different color on each side
  • Number Cube, plastic, 5/8" square, numbers 1-6 on sides
  • Number Spinner, plastic, 4.5" square
  • Fraction Circles, 9 circles, can be used on the overhead projector
  • Pattern Blocks, large bag, plastic
  • Tangrams, 1 set, plastic
  • Geometric shapes, clear plastic with one side open, called "volume relationship set," six pieces (cylinder, pyramid, cone, sphere, rectangular prism, cube)

Recommendation: Calvert School has put together an impressive group of manipulatives for elementary and middle school ages. While you could probably purchase the materials for a lower price with careful shopping, the kits offer the convenience of having everything to make math more understandable in one order with a nice storage box.

The lesson books offer some suggestions and ideas for using the materials. I would love to see the people at Calvert expand these with more specific exercises to use all of the materials. The activities in the "Intermediate" lesson manual are particularly interesting and left me wishing for more. resources related to this review:'s Math Resources Section for everything you need to teach math and enrich your curriculum!
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