Pencil Box Manipulative Kits

Whether homeschooling or social distancing within the classroom, it will be imperative that students have some form of manipulative kit that they can use during the lessons. In fact, while I have always had caddies for students to share (before social distancing), I have always encouraged students to have their own pencil boxes to keep materials to extend lessons and differentiate.

Creating a list of simple items for the beginning of the year is easy with some planning. Check out my suggestions below:


The Kindergarten box should help students explore numbers through ten with ease. I like to include the following in my box from the start of the year:

  • two sets of one stack of 10 in two different colors of connecting cubes

  • ten frame

  • word form, dot form and digit form number cards (available in my Member's section for FREE)

Other things you may want to include:

  • die

  • dry erase marker

First Grade:

In first grade, students are extending their understanding of numbers within 10 to explore concepts of numbers within 100. I like to include several items from the beginning of the year.

  • two sets of one stack of 10 in two different colors of connecting cubes

  • 2 ten frames (I add more as we start counting to 100)

  • die

  • dry erase marker

  • laminated number bond flash cards (Available for FREE in my Member's Area)

  • word form, digit form, and dot card form of numbers 1-20 (available for FREE in my Member's Area)

  • DIY place value chart headings for tens and ones (available for FREE in my Member's Area)

As we continue through the school year, I usually add some base ten blocks including tens and ones to the kit when students learn place value. These go well with the DIY place value charts when there is not enough room to store an official chart.

Second and Third Grades:

In these grades, students will need place value materials to extend their understanding of place value from previous grade levels. I like to include the following:

  • counters

  • dry erase markers

  • 9-sided die

  • number bond flash cards and subitizing cards (available for addition/subtraction and multiplication/division for FREE in my Member's area)

  • DIY place value chart headings (available for FREE in my Member's area)

  • base ten blocks tens and ones. I use picture form for greater place value. You can access these cards as part of my Place Value bundle in my SHOP with so many more great activities. This could also be exchanged for place value chips in 3rd grade if needed.

Third-Fifth Grades:

This box looks very similar to the last one with the exception of place value chips. Place value chips are great for students to use as they move to greater place value concepts. (You can access a printable version of place value chips by purchasing my Place Value Bundle available in my SHOP with so many more great activities.) These place value chips can also be used to represent decimals with the proper DIY place value headings.

Throughout the year, I also add fraction strips or circles as we dive into fraction concepts.

However you choose to organize your student's materials totally depends on you and the materials you have on hand. I would definitely not try to fit all the manipulatives for each year in one pencil box or even a table caddy (if we were sharing manipulatives). I always advise just choosing the materials for the chapter and switching them out when finished. With that being said, there are always a few that stay in the entire time like counters/connecting cubes and number bond flash cards.

Keeping up with manipulatives can definitely be a challenge. Hopefully this gives you a place to start! Leave me a comment with other great ways your organize your students' math manipulatives.

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