Hands On Math!

Over the past three years Math has become something I LOVE!  Mostly because it is the majority of what I teach all day.  I am lucky to be in a position in which I team teach and my day consists of Math and Science.  When I moved from kindergarten to third grade it was quite an adjustment.  I went from a place where I was able to teach all day and my concern was making sure my kinders could read and that my centers were ready each day, to a grade where there is a big emphasis on teaching content needed for a test.

Through the past three years I have made it my mission to find fun, hands-on ways to help my students learn what they need at the rigor level they need all while having fun...and making it as minimal on the paper work as I can...not easy, but much more doable than you might think.

I'm happy to join a linky brought to us by Mrs.Will's Kindergarten and to share some of my favorite activities I've done this year!



I don't have a good name for these, so I just call them dice shakers.  I posted on Dice Shakers last year, but I have since added ways to use them in my classroom and I will share those here.  First of all, what is a Dice Shaker?  Well, I'm glad you asked, here is a photo.

This is the side the students look at.  As you can tell by the letters that are rubbed off on the back, I open my shakers a lot.  This is because I am constantly changing them to turn them into different games.  The perk to this is that my students know general procedures for this center, the only thing that changes is the objective.

About the container...I buy the LARGE week long pill box holders.  They sell them at Dollar Tree for a dollar.  I once had someone tell me their dice didn't shake.  I haven't had that problem, but I do use the large holders that are about 1 1/2 inches wide or so.  I would recommend, if in doubt either take a dice with you to the store or buy one and make sure it works before buying more.  The size I have is pretty standard and I have seen them at Walmart and as I mentioned Dollar Tree.

Here is the back of my pill box.  I tape it shut.  Its just much easier to make sure the dice don't fly out.  I have closed mine with Duck tape and then this is the glitter Scotch paper tape (because I have a slight obsession with sparkly things.)

Here are the games I have used with my dice shakers...


Place as many dice as the place value you teach to into the pill containers (one dice per section/day).  Students practice shaking and reading the numbers.  You can also extend this to then have students write the number on white boards and decompose it, put it in written form or practice writing the values of certain places.  I have use this in centers as well as in small groups and with partners.


This works for up to 3 digit by 3 digit numbers or you can use two dice shakers and have students shake for the first number and then shake the second one for the next number and add them.  I tape an addition sign in the middle (4th) section of the shaker for students to use.

This can extend to subtraction by making the first 3 digits a number, then put a subtraction symbol, and make the second number only 2 digits so that it doesn't exceed the first number.  (Apparently I forgot to take a photo the week that I had the subtraction shakers out).


For comparing numbers I put three dice in each side.  Students shake, compare and place the correct symbol on the pink square.  Their teammate then checked their answer and told why they agreed or disagreed with the answer.

I develop more ways to use these as time goes along.  They have proven to be a great resource for my classroom.  Hope your students like them as much as mine!


Games are a great way to keep those early finishers done.  I have seen many activities in which teachers use clothes pins to clip on to answer choices for questions.  I have created clip-its that I use with my students in which they place a paper clip on the answer to mark their answer.

Again, a big focus in my class is the math talk and discussing what they are doing.  It is vital to me that students explain their thinking.  So as they answer they have to show their cards to their partner and ask them if they agree or disagree and defend their choice. I like to use color paper clips or these awesome arrow paper clips I found at Hobby Lobby with the cards.

I have more of my clip-its in the works, unfortunately, my dad passed away just as I had started using these with students.  I never quite had time to make the others I had planned on using, but stay tuned for more in the future.  Here are the ones I have now (click the image of each to learn more)...


I often just take my worksheet and change it up.  We see this with Task Cards and Scoots, because that is similar, but sometimes I don't have time to find the right Task Cards etc. Here are some things I do instead.

This is one of my kids favorites.  I have my text book or worksheets and I screen shot them, put them in a PowerPoint and then I put them on my white board.  We don't have access to Smart Boards in all of our classrooms, so this is my solution.  I shrink my Power Point questions down onto the bottom of the slide and then make the Power Point full screen.  I project the questions onto the white boards.  I often call kids to the carpet with their white boards and markers.  They solve along with the class.

This is something I use most often around testing season.  It gives us a break from the worksheet, but still gives the exposure to the concepts in test format.  Here is one of my kiddos solving a problem just the other day.

Another way to break away from the worksheet is to have students create their own questions. I give students parameters to create the questions, model two for them, and then let them have 15 minutes to create their own.  We then spend time projecting them with the document camera. Students solve the questions on paper or a white board and the student who created the question teaches it to the class.  Here is a question we did during our area and perimeter unit.  As you can see I gave students the grid paper to create their area picture.  They glued it to the top and then created their question below.

Make it a Thinking Map!

I often solidify my ideas with Thinking Maps.  I find them very helpful for my kids.  It gives them a chance to create and think and organize their learning.  Here is a Thinking Map showing the different strategies the students can use to multiply as they applied it to a word problem.  Students created this as a completion to the multiplication unit to how their understanding.


I've become a big fan of lapbooks.  (Stay tuned for more posts of some fun things coming in this area in the future!)   The reason I love lapbooks is that students have the chance to gather information, while still learning and they are able to take it home and share it with parents.


I have set up my lapbooks so that students assemble just the part they need for the day of the lesson.  I infuse the lapbook as part of my learning portion of my lesson or as the independent practice.  Students only have to cut and glue the sections they need for the days lesson.  By the time we finish the unit they are done with their lapbook.


Here are the two lapbooks I have finished and tested with my students.


I hope these ideas have inspired you and given you a few ways to make learning a little more hand-on!

Here are a few more links you might like related to math...


  1. Those dice shakers!! I've used the individual boxes for 1-2. but never thought of using these for place value. Thank you :) Jen

    1. So glad you like them! My students love using them! Hope yours enjoy it too! :)

  2. I love the pill box idea. I teach 6th and 7th grade(mostly), and they still need review on rounding to the nearest tenth, hundredth, etc. My brain is spinning on how I could do things with integers as well.

    1. That's awesome! I think of new ways all the time to use them and wonder why I didn't think about it sooner. I hope to have a follow up post to this with more ways soon. Thanks for sharing! Hope you have a great year! :)

  3. Love all these ideas! Thanks for sharing.


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