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Hands On Activities in Math Centers: 5 Simple and Creative Ideas

Learning centers are a great way to enrich and review math material. When you are using centers in your classroom, you want to make sure the activities students are doing vary in terms of learning types. One way students learn is through hands on activities in math centers. Using hands on activities in math centers is a great way to help students see and manipulate various math concepts.

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1: Linking Equations Together

One way you can use hands on pieces for math centers is to use paperclips. Paperclips are inexpensive and easily found in the home as well as in the classroom and can be used when multiplying, subtracting, and adding. You can ask students to take an equation like 3+9-5 and link paper clips together and take them off. For example, the student would take 3 paperclips and link them together. Then they would add nine more to that chain; finally, they would take off five paper clips to get an answer of 7. This hands on math center can challenge students to think outside the box and help with a basic math skill.

You can easily store your paperclips in little bags and provide so many per package. For example, you could keep 20 paperclips in snack baggies. The nice thing about paperclips is they are easy to sanitize with a disinfectant spray.

2: Cut a Slice x 2

Fractions can be a frustration for students and teachers alike. However, it can be made easier by creating a hands on math center pizza.

You will need two pieces of different colored paper and cut a circle out of each, you can create a fraction wheel. Simply trace two circles of the same size on each piece of paper. With a brass fastener, put the two pieces of paper together. Then, using a ruler and a compass, divide the circles into however many parts you would like. Cut on the lines of the top piece of paper until it reaches the brass fastener. Next, give students fraction problems and ask them to use the wheel to solve it by folding up the appropriate number of flaps. If you are using digital centers, you can have students take a picture and upload it to an online platform. This helps combine online learning with hands on math activities.  

This activity can easily be kept in individual folders for students to use not only in math centers but also in class.


You can also use printable center worksheets that ask students to come up with four different ways to get to a number on the pie. On each one, students can show tally marks, a graph, or an equation. Must like the fraction pies, you can keep these in individual folders.

3: Competitive Games

Whether competing for a prize or competing against each other in various games. Using review games like Squares Your Brain can be a great hands on math activity in various centers. Other math games you can use work on the basic skills like Math. Bringing back games like around the world where the winner has to make it around the room by answering the question correctly first can be a great way to get kids up and using their brains. Another hands on game might be using checkers. In order to move forward, you have to answer the question correctly on that square.

This game would be easy to store in an iris box labeled “checkers” for hands on math activities.

4: Roll the Dice

Another fun activity that can help students distinguish between even and odd numbers while still adding or subtracting is to play roll the dice. In this game, students roll the dice and add or subtract the numbers. Then on a recording sheet, they write down the total on either the even or the odd category. This activity is simple and easy to store in a general “box” with dice in it as well as a folder with the sheets available for recording.

5: What’s Your Sign?

In math, we use signs and symbols for everything! You can use hands on math symbols to match symbols and definitions. When you are just learning the various signs, you can have your student put the sign next to the verbal definition. For example, = means equals. Next, you can match the symbols to number pairs. For instance, if you have a number pair of 11 and 9, they would put the greater sign with the number pair and so on. By matching the signs to definitions and then examples, you are creating hands on math activities in your math centers that will grow with your student’s knowledge.


You can use these same printed math symbols to show which one is greater, lesser, or equal to in a dice game. Have two sets a dice between math center partners. When each rolls the dice, have them add, subject, or multiply the numbers. Then have the students put the correct “sign” between the dice and take a picture. They can then post this picture on your digital forums.

Hands On Activities in Math Centers

Using math centers in your classroom or at home will help students achieve mastery. While learning is taking place, there can be more of a mess. Therefore, it’s important to remember to take into account the cleanup time and make sure you keep your procedures and overall framework in mind.

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Math centers are a great tool to use in your classroom for review and enrichment of ideas. When you use hands-on math centers, you are getting your students working in a different way. This not only creates variety, but it also creates understanding.

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