My girls love math games – especially when they involve lots of shiny, new loose parts. But official math manipulatives can be expensive, ranging anywhere from $10 to upwards of $30 for larger sets. The good news is you can play and teach all sorts of arithmetic with math manipulatives that cost next to nothing and that you already have in your home!
50+ Affordable Math Manipulatives
Household Items and Recyclables
A great place to find math manipulatives is in your kitchen cabinets. Bulk dry goods, like pasta and beans are perfect! As our recyclables, like bottle caps, small cups, and straws. And muffin tins make excellent sorting trays.
Tens and Ones with Cups and Pasta | Kids Creative Chaos
Moose Muffins Math Game | Kitchen Floor Crafts
DIY Bottle Top Calculator | Learn with Play at Home
Magnet Sort | Busy Toddler
Matching and Ordering by Size with Straws | Gift of Curiosity
Basic Math with Bottle Caps | Adventures of Adam
Bottle Cap Learning | Tiny Tots Adventures
Want more great Math Ideas for Kids?
For more awesome hands-on learning ideas for preschoolers, be sure to check out ABCs and 123s, our latest collaborative ebook, featuring 40+ ideas to teach the alphabet and math skills through play!
Food as Manipulatives
The absolute favorite in our house when it comes to affordable math manipulatives is FOOD! No matter the season or holiday, I can always grab a bag of candy and come up with something fun to do with it – from counting and sorting, to graphing and patterning. And there are many more food options below!
Learning with Conversation Hearts | Playground Parkbench
5 Games with Candy Hearts | Kitchen Floor Crafts
Sorting Sight Words with SweetTart Hearts | Playground Parkbench
Penguin Number Mats with Goldfish | Life Over C’s
Place Value with Colored Pasta | Playground Parkbench
Number Cookies | Craftulate
Fish Crackers Counting Activity | Best Toys 4 Toddlers
Jelly Bean Math Three Ways | Kitchen Floor Crafts
Conversation Heart Counting Cards | Life Over C’s
Pumpkin Patch Candy Counting | Kitchen Floor Crafts
Adding Mice (Beans) | Pray Species
Corn Kernel Math | Gift of Curiosity
Bean Math Grid Game | Best Toys 4 Toddlers
You don’t have to go buy dedicated math manipulatives like teddy bear counters or unix cubes. Search through your toy bins and you will likely find plenty that works just as well. From animal sets to board game pieces, dominos to LEGO, it can all be used for more than just play.
Montessori Color Match | Playground Parkbench
Family Board Games that Double as Educational Manipulatives | My Mundane and Miraculous Life
Montessori Animal Match | Playground Parkbench
LEGO Math Ten Frame Games | Lalymom
Number Recognition with Easter Eggs | Little Bins for Little Hands
10 LEGO Math Activities for Preschoolers | Kidz Activities
Sorting Objects | Busy Toddler
LEGO Duplo Number Line | In the Playroom
Learning Math with Dominos | Joy in the Home
Craft & Dollar Spot Items
After food, the Dollar Store and Target Dollar Spot are my next favorite place to stalk for math manipulatives. I can always find holiday craft items, seasonal mini erasers, glass gems and even stickers that make for fun math games and activities.
Sorting with Pom Poms | Playground Parkbench
Patterns with Pom Poms | Craftulate
Fill the Jar Addition Game with Mini Erasers | Life Over C’s
Mitten Math Snowflake Counting | Stir the Wonder
Deck the Crown with Jewels | Playground Parkbench
Race to Fill the Cup with Mini Erasers | Mom Inspired Life
Moon Math Game with Glass Gems | Stir the Wonder
Pipe Cleaner Numbers | Learn with Play at Home
Ten Apples Up on Top Counting Book | Playground Parkbench
Counting Stars | Pray Species
Portable Ten Frame with Heart Gems | Lalymom
Teaching Combinations of 10 with Dot Stickers | Gift of Curiosity
Dyed Wooden Discs | Cutting Tiny Bites
Sorting & Graphing Transportation Stickers | Life Over C’s
Want to keep your math manipulatives eco-friendly? Look no further than your backyard! Stones, sticks, flowers and seashells all make for excellent counters. Check out all the fun ways you can use natural items to learn math.
Sorting Seashells – A Summer Math Activity | Playground Parkbench
Pirates Gold Number Play (Rocks) | Kitchen Floor Crafts
Measuring Seashells | Little Bins for Little Hands
Dandelion Counting Race | Hands on As We Grow
Rock Sums | Creative Family Fun
Construction Counting Game (Rocks) | Little Bins for Little Hands
Simple Montessori Counting Activity with Rocks | My Mundane and Miraculous Life
Counting Roses | Best Toys 4 Toddlers
Counting to 20 with Loose Parts | Bambini Travel
Learn Math Outside | Carrots are Orange
What are your go-to math manipulatives at home? Hopefully, with 50+ ideas to choose from, you can find something you already have and save a few $$$ on supplies. If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy our latest STEM series: Architecture and Engineering for Kids, with new activities added every Wednesday! You can find all of the posts linked here, and so many more, on our STEM for Kids and Preschool boards on Pinterest.