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Must Haves For Teaching Math

Top 12 Must Haves for Math

Math is so much easier to teach (and to learn) when you have resources to use. I am a firm believer that learning math is best done with hands on activities and lessons, rather than just doing worksheets.

Don’t get me wrong, I think worksheets provide valuable practice but there has to be more than just worksheets. 

I am going to share with you my must haves for anyone teaching math and why I think you should have them in your math class. 

These are not in any particular order (because I think they are all important) and I realize that there are way more things you could have in your classroom but these are my top 15 must haves if I was forced to pick.

1.) Whiteboards

I think I use mini whiteboards in my classroom more anything else and they are perfect for Math. We use them during whole class lessons and during small group time. 

When I am doing a whole class lesson I don’t want just 1 or 2 students involved, I want them all. The best way I have found this is to give everyone a whiteboard (with marker and eraser) and have them answer questions along with the student coming up to show what they know. 

I give a lot of time for all students to work through a problem before I call someone up to answer. This is time I wander around to see how everyone is doing on their whiteboard. 

Students are more apt to take risks on a whiteboard because it is not permanent. Their work (and with some, insecurities) can easily be wiped away.

2.) Counters

Some people think counters are only use in K-2 classrooms but we use them for so many things. 
They are great for looking at fractions, ratios, graphing, arrays, making equal groups when multiplying/dividing, & addition/subtraction if that is the strategy a student prefers.
These are examples of some of the ones I use. 

We have even used them during small group time to review even and odd numbers. I have students grab a container and decide if there is an even or odd number in them. They love to challenge each other and see how many containers they can do before we have to move on. 

Different items to use as counters is something I am always keeping an eye open for. Everything from buttons, animal shapes, jewels, and keys, to seasonal shapes. 

Here is the label for the containers that I use to store them in. Dollar stores are great for containers and counter items.

3.) Two Color Counters

Two color counters can be used for all the things above but I particularly like to use them for probability and when first learning about arrays in multiplication. 



If the equation is 6×4 I will have students use one color to build the array with 6 rows and then use the other color to build it with 4 rows. They can easily see that the answer is the same but that there are 2 different arrays they can use.

4.) Base Ten Blocks

Base Ten blocks are likely the most important resource to have when teaching students about place value up to 10 000. 
They are instrumental in students understanding how to trade when regrouping and to see that a number can be represented in more than one way.


For instance, to show 2 345 you they can use 2 thousand blocks and 3 hundreds blocks or they can use 1 thousands block and 13 hundreds blocks. 
I also use them when teaching decimals.

5.) Number Lines

I always have copies of different number lines ready to go because we use them for many different concepts/skills. 
Students use them as a tool to help with addition and subtraction if they need it. We use them for fractions, elapse time, skip counting, negative numbers(older grades), etc.
If you would like some FREE number line templates here they are!
Included are 19 different number lines.
  • a variety of lines from 0-10 to 0-100
  • fraction lines from 1/2 to 1/10
  • negative numbers -20 to 20
  • a variety of blank ones for you or your students to fill in however you need them!

6.) Hundreds Charts

Just like number lines I have a variety of hundreds charts printed/laminated for my students to use if they like. 
I have a giant pocket chart one displayed in my classroom, as well as the smaller printed ones. 
Hundreds charts are great for teaching number sense, place value, skip counting, rounding, even/odd numbers, etc.


Some people think hundreds charts are only for 1st and 2nd graders but I am here to tell you they are not. Especially if you make charts for numbers higher such as an 800s chart or a 900s chart.

I even put hundreds (and 500s, 600s, 700s…) charts in my math centers. You can read all about that here and get a free chart to get you started!

7.) Dice

This may be my #1 must have. You can never have too many dice in your classroom. 6-sided, 10-sided, 12-sided, 20-sided, or any sided. They are ALL so useful. 

Throw in some operational dice and you have an endless supply of math games!

If you are just getting started with dice in your classroom here is are 3 FREE worksheet activities that you can use with your class. I use them with 20-sided and 10-sided dice but you can use any dice and have students fill in numbers based on their dice roll. For the subtraction page I remind students that the greatest number has to go on the top. 

8.) Cards

I recommend having a good supply of cards in your classroom. Students use decks of cards to play math games such as war and crib. They also use them to build numbers for place value and addition, subtraction, multiplication activities. 

When learning about integers and playing math games with cards, the red cards can represent negative numbers. 

Save the decks that don’t have all the cards! When we are using cards in activities that don’t require a full deck of cards, like building umbers, students can use incomplete decks. I have these decks clearly marked as incomplete so they don’t get mixed in with the full sets. 

I have found the best place to get cards is at the dollar store or by asking friends if they have extras at home they are willing to donate. 

9.) Dominoes

I use dominoes much like I use cards in my classroom and expand the concepts to fractions. 

For fractions, dominoes make instant fractions for students to draw, order, compare, say to a partner. 

I also have students use dominoes to build numbers to add or subtract. If I want them to calculate a 4 digit number they will pick 4 dominoes and line them up. The top numbers create the top number in the equation and the bottom numbers on the dominoes create the bottom number of the equation. For subtraction I again have to remind my students that the number at the top has to be the greater number. 

When I am purchasing dominoes I try and find the double-12 sets so students have larger numbers to deal with. Just like cards, keep all random dominoes because they don’t need them as a set. 

10.) Snap Cubes

Whether you have/call them snap cubes, unifix cubes, interlocking cubes, linking cubes, etc. we use them all the same.

In my classroom we use them most when exploring fractions or area and perimeter. For fractions, students can get 2 different colors and build a variety of different fractions with them. For area and perimeter, I have students build a shape and then decide what the area and perimeter is for that shape. They also love building shapes and seeing if their partner can find the area and perimeter.

Snap cubes can also be used to create patterns, used as counters when adding or subtracting, as well as to make arrays for multiplication and division. 

11.) Page Protectors

I cannot imaging teaching math without the use of page protectors. If I have activities that I want my students to complete for a math center but I want to reuse the page, I simply slide it into a page protector and have students use dry erase markers to write on the page protector. When they are done showing me or a partner their work, it is easily erased and ready for the next student.

I use them a lot with my small math groups to slide math work mats and graphic organizers into. The organizers can be store in the page protectors and put in binders for easy access. 

If I have printed off a math game, such as Bump, and I don’t have time to laminate … into a page protector they go.

I have found the box of them at Costco are the best quality (erase cleanly when written on with dry erase marker) and the best price. If I can’t get them at Costco then I get these ones from Amazon. 

12.) Bingo Chips

The more Bingo chips the better. I keep a bucket of Bingo chips close by my small group table so we have quick access to them when learning about patterns, even & odd, and fractions of a set. 

Just like counters I get students to grab a handful of Bingo chips and decide if they have an odd or even number. This is a super simple activity to have them do if you need to grab a few more things for your lesson or you finish a few minutes early. 

If you have your students play Bump math games then you know that Bingo chips are ideal. I prefer the transparent chips for Bump games but I don’t get too picky.

If there is anything else you find useful to teach math I would love for you to leave a comment and share it with us all.



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  1. These are all great tools. I created individual tool boxes for my second graders. To make the number lines hands on I saw a post where they used a pipe cleaner and a pony bead for them to manipulate. This works great for independence and small group practice.

  2. I've seen the pipe cleaner and pony bead number lines. Those re pretty neat and I can see how they would be great for younger learners. Thanks for sharing.

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