Coloured buttons or counters are perfect to use for hands on Maths practice. Whether for counting, adding, subtracting or dividing it’s much easier for most children to work out and understand these concepts with something tangible in front of them. They are also ideal for sorting games.

We’re taking part in the Manipulatives series over at School Time Snippets where 21 bloggers have joined together to show how maths can be made fun and hands on using simple supplies found in the home.

The possibilities are endless for Maths games with manipulatives like this. First we used the buttons to practice sorting by attributes of colour and shape. You could also sort by size, or other differing features.

Although this is a simple task, children can expand on the activity by estimating beforehand which will be the largest group, or even making an estimate of how many they think will be in each group and then checking their answer by counting. When estimating you can talk about rounding up and down accurately, and talk about the difference between an estimate and a guess.

It’s interesting for children to consider the different ways of categorising each button too, whether by it’s shape, colour or size. You could take this further by drawing out a venn diagram and laying the buttons out on top, to look at how each one can fit into overlapping categories.

Using buttons or similar manipulatives is also great for getting hands on with simple addition, subtraction and division as I mentioned. My boys enjoyed working together on this, with each one setting problems for the others. My younger boys definitely find it easier to work out the simple sums when using tools like these and it helps to build their confidence as they see themselves as able to add together much larger numbers compared to what they would manage just with mental calculations.

With such an open ended material, the children can adapt the maths problems to their level and work with the tools in the way that best suits them, which is great.

The plastic buttons that we used for this activity are very similar to these on Amazon. I like this type since they are quite chunky and have a good variety of shapes.

For more hands on Maths ideas with manipulatives, do check out the Manipulatives series over at School Time Snippets, and follow our STEM board on Pinterest for more Maths (along with the other STEM topics)