• Caroline Farkas

5 Best Math Manipulatives for the Upper Elementary Classroom

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

Do your upper elementary students struggle to visualize math or make sense of problems? If so, math manipulatives can drastically help your students break down complex problems. I always have a plethora of manipulatives available for students at all times to use, especially on those tricky word problems! So, what are my favorites for 3rd-grade math, 4th-grade math, and 5th-grade math? Here are my top 5! Amazon affiliate links are attached below for some of the products.

1. Math Cubes

Math Cubes are Math Manipulatives for Upper Elementary

Math Cubes are one of the most versatile math manipulatives for upper elementary! While some may think this wonderful tool is geared more towards the lower grades, math cubes are one of the most frequently used tools in my classroom. I especially love to use them for showing multiplication arrays.

What they can be used for:

  • Multiplication arrays

  • Showing fractions as part of a group

  • Visuals for word problems

  • Showing area and perimeter

2. Place Value Blocks

Place Value Blocks are Math Manipulatives for Upper Elementary

I love base ten blocks because they give students exactly the visual they need to do many of the complex skills learned in upper elementary. One of my favorite ways to utilize these blocks is to have students use them when learning the standard algorithm for addition or subtraction. It shows them why they have to regroup or carry that number in the algorithm!

What they can be used for:

  • Place value

  • Comparing two numbers

  • Carrying with multi-digit addition and subtraction

3. Fraction Tiles

Fraction Tiles or Bars make great math manipulatives for upper elementary

If there is one thing that we spend a lot of time on in upper elementary, it is fractions! I love these fraction tiles because they are bright and engaging for students. What is super useful about these is that they easily show students equivalent fractions. One of my favorite activities is to have students lay out the fractions in a straight line and link it to showing fractions on a number line.

What they can be used for:

  • Basic fraction concepts

  • Equivalent fractions

  • Adding fractions

  • Subtracting fractions

  • Making sense of numerators and denominators.

4. Pattern Blocks

Pattern Blocks for Upper Elementary

Pattern blocks are so versatile and students can’t seem to keep their hands off of them! I used pattern blocks all of the time in 4th grade when we talked about geometry. These blocks make it fun to sort the shapes by types of angles, or by types of polygon. Students also loved designing their own symmetrical shapes with these!

What they can be used for:

  • Symmetry

  • Types of angles

  • Classifying polygons

  • Fractions

  • Parallel and perpendicular lines

5. Fraction Clipart

Fraction Clipart being used as printable math manipulatives in a fraction problem

Fractions can be tricky, and sometimes you need concrete practice with them. Fraction clipart is great because you can quickly print and go. Students can color and cut it if you want them to be involved in the creation of them. You can also print in color and laminate them to be used year after year. I personally love giving students their own set of fraction manipulatives to use whenever they need at their desk. If they lose them, I can just print some more. What I love most about the clipart is that it’s considerably cheaper than buying class sets of the above manipulatives and I can choose clipart that fits my students interests (or class theme) at the time.

What they can be used for:

  • Basic fraction concepts

  • Learning about numerators and denominators

  • Adding fractions

  • Subtracting fractions

What math manipulatives do you use in your upper elementary classroom? I’d love to hear what works best for you!

5 Awesome Math Manipulatives for your Upper Elementary Classroom

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