50+ Affordable Math Manipulatives

by Meghan

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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

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.

Math Manipulatives with Household Objects

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!

Math Manipulatives featuring Food

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

Repurposed Toys

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.

Math Manipulatives - Repurposed Toys

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.

Math Manipulatives from Crafts Supplies and Dollar Store Finds

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

Natural Counters

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.

Math Manipulatives in Nature

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.


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