Down Home

The SLOCA Blog

Homeschool Corners: Math Manipulatives

February 20th, 2018

{photos by Jenny Bischoff}

Today we are trying something slightly new here at Down Home. We all know and love the virtual tour posts that we share occasionally, where SLOCA families take us on a photo tour of their home learning spaces. These are fantastic for getting ideas on how to organize our school supplies and books, and for getting to know a little more about how our families manage their stuff and where they do their school work at home.

We'd like to try a quick and easy version of this idea by showing just a homeschool corner, desk, bookshelf, table, storage solution, or any other single spot, rather than someone’s entire homeschool realm. We aren’t looking for experts here – just real SLOCA families who are willing to show us one corner of their homeschool space and say a few words about how they use it. Today's post is actually a bit longer than what we have in mind for this series, but we wanted to introduce it, explain it, and get the ball rolling. We hope for more submissions that can be even shorter and simpler than this!

I (Jenny) will start things off today by sharing how we’ve dealt with all those math supplies and manipulatives over the years. I am what you call a somewhat-organized person. I love the look of nice neat rows and stacking bins and everything in its place, but I'm usually operating at about 75% of my organizing ideals. I am certainly no expert and there are doubtless better ways to organize and utilize all the neat games and tools we all have, but here are a few photos showing what we’ve done at the Bischoff house:

As the top photo shows, I store most of my math supplies on top of a bookcase that holds other school books and supplies. This bookcase is a great height because I can reach what’s on top of it easily, but when my kids were little they couldn’t. I’ve used different sizes and shapes of plastic bins that stack nicely, and one summer I even got productive and gave myself the project of printing (and laminating!) labels to stick onto some of the bins. These bins hold things like place value discs and cards, base-10 blocks, geometric solids, random math games, flash cards, geoboards, and tools like a compass and protractor. On top of the bins, I have a few larger math-related games and activities that we've enjoyed, like Double Shutter and Wedgits. 

Smaller bins hold colored tiles, counters, linking cubes, pattern blocks, tangrams, and dominoes. When my kids were younger I used these items all the time! We still get them out occasionally. For tall and awkward items like our giant place value cards, a cardboard magazine holder works just fine. I also keep a large rolled up paper place value chart in there (very fancy, I know).

On the right end of my shelf, there’s a white plastic basket that holds all kinds of little items we might use regularly. Number cards and playing cards, ten frames, dice, a sand timer, other math game cards that I’ve collected over the years, and one small bin of random items that work really well for game pieces or other activities. This basket is easy to grab when I gather my math books, and I’ll swap out what’s in here depending on my kids’ levels or what unit we are doing in math.

Not shown here is a shorter bookcase right next to this one, and on top of that I have a stand that holds small whiteboards, and I also keep my dry erase markers and erasers, pens, pencils, etc. there too.

That’s it! My space isn’t perfect, but it’s worked remarkably well for the past several years, with minor tweaks here and there. I know where all my math materials are and we’ve used everything shown here. Honestly, it’s probably time for me to reorganize again and pass along some of the manipulatives for younger kids. Such a sad thought! I guess I have a lot of memories tied up in these bits of plastic… we do get attached to our things, don’t we?

How do you store your math manipulatives? Share in the comments! What types of spaces or organizational solutions would you like to see featured in this series? Let us know that in the comments too.

And SLOCA parents, if you have one small part of your home learning area that you’d be willing to share on the blog, please email Down Home and show us one of your homeschool corners – let’s keep this series going! You can literally send one photo and just a few lines, if you want to keep it super simple.