As an educator, you know math can be a challenge for some students. Some may have issues with retention, need to focus on fundamentals, or they might need help overcoming general math anxiety — and it can be a struggle to manage all their needs at the same time. But, with the right tools to help students succeed in math, you can help students learn more effectively while making your job a little easier, too.
Below, we’ve pulled together a list of the top 10 most popular math tools, as well as various ways you can use these tools in your classroom to help students stay on track and move ahead in math.
Calculators help students succeed in math because they help reduce math anxiety. When students feel assured of their accuracy, they’re better able to focus on the process for more advanced concepts. Plus, let’s be honest, they can also make learning math a little more fun, too.
Simple calculator activity
Figuring percentages is one simple way to use a basic four-function calculator, such as the Texas Instruments TI-108. You can also use this same technique as a simple, yet effective activity with your students:
- Give your students a percentage problem, as well as the answer to the problem.
- Ask them to show you the method of finding the answer you provided using a calculator.
- Once completed, discuss the different methods students chose to solve the equation and why they chose that method.
2. UNIFIX® Cubes
UNIFIX Cubes® can be used to teach the basics of patterns, counting, addition, subtraction, and fractions. The cubes are especially effective for younger learners because they can be placed together and connect on all six sides, which helps build fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
With a bulk set you can help your students engage in the following:
- Pattern matching
- Place value concepts
- Numeral recognition
- Beginning work with numbers
UNIFIX Cube® activity for middle schoolers
For middle schoolers, UNIFIX Cubes can be used to demonstrate more complex math concepts, such as ratios. By using activities outlined in this ratios lesson plan students can use the cubes in the following ways:
- Determine ratio relationships when provided with a set of givens
- Build a tower using UNIFIX® Cubes based on equivalent fraction clues
- Gain a better overall understanding of equivalent fractions
3. Dry-erase boards and graphs
Dry-erase boards and graphs, such as the popular Nasco Double-Sided Coordinate Grid Dry-Erase Board or Nasco Double-Sided Centimeter Grid Dry-Erase Board, are effective problem-solving tools that help students practice math concepts while allowing you to monitor and assess their progress — all with less paper waste to manage.
Dry-erase board activity
During this lesson, students will learn to do the following:
- Create factor trees and identify the prime factorization of a given number up to 100
- Differentiate between prime and composite numbers
- Deconstruct composite numbers into their prime factors
4. Fraction tiles
Fraction tiles, such as the Set of Fraction Tiles with Trays or the bulk Set of Fraction Tiles without Trays, are an effective way to teach students equivalency, mixed numbers, and fraction comparisons by allowing them to visually explore fraction relationships.
Fraction tiles activity
The “Adding and subtracting of fractions” lesson plan assists students in learning how to add and subtract fractions with unlike denominators. By using activity cards with the fraction tiles students will learn to do the following:
- Prove that two particular fractions with unlike denominators add up to a given fraction
- Prove that two particular fractions with unlike denominators have a given difference
- Create pictorial models that represent a variety of addition and subtraction problems with fractions
Used for measuring and drawing angles, common protractors, such as this 6-inch professional protractor, are essential tools that help students gain a better understanding of geometry.
To introduce students to finding angles using a protractor, try using fun activity sheets that contain drawings, such as a dog or letters, like these examples:
- On the dog drawing, ask students to find and measure the angles using a simple 4- inch solid protractor.
- Have students draw the first letter of their name as a block letter that they can color in, then have them use a ruler to draw random lines inside the letter. Next, ask students to find as many angles as possible inside the letter using their protractor.
When combined with Geo Stix, as in the “In and out angles” lesson plan, you can also have students explore and create various triangles to develop an understanding of interior and exterior angles of a triangle, how they relate to one another, and how to measure the angles with a protractor.
Who doesn’t love a trusty and timeless ruler? As the go-to tool for introducing students to measuring, you can’t go wrong with a dependable, shatterproof ruler such as the Clearview 12 in. Clear Ruler.
When it comes to ruler activities, the real question is, what can’t your students measure? However, if you want to get creative, try some of these ideas:
- Have students use rulers to draw pictures using straight lines with specific widths and heights.
- Ask them to create paperclip chains in specific lengths and use a ruler to measure the lengths or to determine how many paperclips it will take to make a chain in a specific length.
- Take your students outside and ask them to find leaves, rocks, or sticks in specific lengths and measure them.
- Challenge students to a scavenger hunt to find something that is 1 inch, 2 inches, 3 inches, and so on.
- The possibilities are endless!
Along with being a helpful tool in teaching addition, probability, and counting, dice are also great for playing games.
You can find lots of fun examples on ways to use dice to increase math competency in Dice Activities for Math or by using the Nasco Classroom Dice Kit. But another fun option is to incorporate games, such as Head Full of Numbers®. In this game students will do the following:
- Place three standard dice and three custom dice into the dice shaker
- Roll out the dice and set a timer
- Create as many equations as possible using the numbers rolled
Used to explore basic concepts in plane geometry, such as perimeter, area, triangles, and polygons, geoboards allow students to create different sizes of the same shapes. As a visual way to introduce geometry, X-Y Coordinate Geoboards can also be useful in lessons that require algebraic thinking.
In the “Translations and reflections” lesson plan activity, students are introduced to the meaning of translation and reflection and can use X-Y Coordinate Geoboards to create translations and reflections of specific shapes. In this lesson students also do the following:
- Analyze how x and y coordinates change when performing translations and reflections
- Identify the differences and similarities between translations and reflections
- Conclude that each type follows a given set of rules
9. Base 10
Base 10 blocks are an effective tool to help students succeed in math because they help increase comprehension of long division while sharpening skills in addition, subtraction, and place value. You can get started with popular Base 10 classroom kits such as the Nasco Differentiated Base 10 Classroom Set or the smaller Base 10 Classroom Set.
Base 10 activity
A guided lesson, such as “Using Base 10 blocks to teach the fundamentals of long division,” can help students in the following ways:
- Decompose multi-digit division problems
- Modify division problems to solve in different manners
- Manipulate division problems to give them more concrete meaning
10. Algebra tiles
Ideal for visualizing and solving algebraic equations, algebra tiles are also a great way to provide students with a concrete representation of abstract concepts.
Algebra tiles activity
The “Addition with algebra tiles” lesson plan can familiarize students with the function of algebra tiles by using two different activities within one lesson plan.
- Students will receive 10 x tiles, 10 blue unit tiles, and 10 red unit tiles.
- Explain to students that algebra tiles will work in a similar fashion to the way they created previous equations.
- Model for students how to use the tiles to create the expression 4x + 7.
- Next model how to create the subtraction expression 8x – 3.
- Have students continue to make their own algebra tile expressions as you model for them.
- Put students together in groups of two so each pair of students has access to 20 x tiles and 20 blue tiles.
- Ask students to help you use algebra tiles to create the expression 4x + 5.
- Next, along with students, build the expression 2x + 3.
- Tell students you’ve just built two expressions in the same manner as you did in Activity 1, and now you’ll add the two expressions together to solve an algebraic equation.
Once students have had the opportunity to practice problems that best fit their abilities, additional practice is included in both worksheet and game form.
By incorporating these activities and tools to help your students succeed in math, you’ll be well on your way to creating a more engaging learning experience for your students, now and throughout the school year.