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Topic: Cheap Manipulatives for Math

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Subject: Cheap Manipulatives for Math
Date Posted: 8/24/2007 9:32 PM ET
Member Since: 6/24/2007
Posts: 415
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I am looking for ideas on cheap, lightweight, inexpensive manipulative ideas for beginning algebra college students.  Hopefully, something they would not feel the need to steal.  I was told there are algebra tiles, but have yet to find anyone who can locate them. 

Any ideas are welcome!


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Date Posted: 8/25/2007 8:40 AM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2005
Posts: 4
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Algebra manipulatives that are cheap...

Pennies are my favorite, because they have no value to students, so they don't get stolen.  They work well as simple counting objects, for one nice quadratic patterning activity (the "circle" of diameter one penny requires one penny; diameter three pennies requires 7 pennies; diameter 5 pennies requires 19 pennies, and in general layer n around the core penny requires 6n more pennies), and if you want signed number chits you can buy adhesive dots (1/4 inch) in two colors at your office supply store (hundreds on a role for a couple bucks) and make one side red, one side yellow or something.

For algebra tiles, the purchased plastic or manipulite ones aren't really that cheap, but there are black-line masters you can use to print them on cardstock.  Tell your students to bring scissors and a ziploc bag the first day you use them, and give each a copy to cut out and store in their bag to bring to future classes.  You can print on two colors to get positive negative, or _after you xerox them_ you can rubber cement a second piece of another color cardstock to the back.  I'm sure I have the blackline masters somewhere, so if you can't find them, you can send me your fax number and I'll fax them to you.

ETA/Cuisinaire and a few other companies sell dice in bulk for probability and exponential decay activities.  My other favorite exponential decay manipulative is baking sized M&Ms - give each student or pair of students about an ounce (that's something on the order of 75 chips) and they count them, then dump them on the desk and remove (eat) those with the blank side up (it can't be the m side up because some don't have an m and you'll decay to that number instead of toward zero).  Keep track of the number of M&Ms remaining and the iteration and you'll get a really good exponential curve, with the exception that the asymptote is eventually reached.

You can buy an elaborate Hands On Equations kit for solving equations using a balanced scale model, but again, a black line master, some pennies and another object to represent the variable works just as well.  I like the little pre-packaged things of birdseed/rice for throwing at weddings - it clearly represents a cluster of contents of an unknown amount and you can get a bunch of them all done for you for not so much money.

I could keep babbling like this forever... PM me if I said anything worth following up (I don't check the forum posts very often).

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Date Posted: 8/25/2007 8:44 AM ET
Member Since: 3/4/2007
Posts: 4,597
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Here's a link for making algebra tiles yourself.  Why not have the students make their own sets for use in class.  You have no expense that way and stealing won't be an issue.


You can also buy them at amazon.com for about $94 for a class set.


Hope that helps.


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Date Posted: 8/27/2007 1:48 PM ET
Member Since: 3/20/2007
Posts: 931
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Educator's Outlet has some "pre-algebra" links on closeout.  I just ordered them today.  They have a 50% off promo off of all closeouts - which makes things *dirt* cheap!  Enter code BTS07 at checkout.  It won't take it off your bill at the time, but they'll take it off during processing.  I ordered the same way in the spring, so I know it's safe and works!


The product I purchased was 11926:

"An integrated teaching manipulative designed to work with Communicating Guide for Pre Algebra which is included. Also includes x pieces that represent variables and square units. Grades 4-8. "

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