Skip to content

Math Manipulatives

Math manipulatives are important tools for our students with visual impairments to learn basic concepts. Here are some ideas and tips for better success.

Cube counters stacked together.

Finding the right manipulatives for our students with visual impairments is key for student success. Many manipulatives in a classroom can easily be used with the right instruction and data collection to best meet the needs of individual students.

Manipulatives are tangible materials that a student can use to understand math concepts and to problem solve in a meaningful way. Young students rely on them to grasp the meaning of numbers and how they are used.

Not all manipulatives are created equal so it’s important that the TVI (Teacher of the Visually Impaired) works closely with the team and student to determine the best fit and approach.


Using counters for young students gives them tangible objects to relate to a number’s meaning. This is the case for all students, not just our students who have a visual impairment.

Here are some manipulative ideas to use counters:

  • Sorting
  • Pattern making
  • Odd/even
  • Number meanings
  • Addition and subtraction
  • Fine motor skills, Eye-hand coordination, Motor planning

Bear Counters

Bear counters are a classroom staple in many Pre-K and kindergarten classrooms. They are great for sorting colors and counting, and come in different shapes and patterns.

Colored Chip Counters

Red on one side and yellow on the other side make these foam counters a class favorite in many elementary classrooms.

Math Link Cubes

One-to-one correspondence, counting to 100, skip counting, comparison, making 10, grouping, addition, subtraction, graphing, color identification, patterning, and matching are all skills that can be taught using link cubes.

Base Ten Blocks

Manipulatives for learning place value and counting beyond the tens.


Learning the analog clock is much easier with these clocks. Learning digital clocks is only the start to really understanding time.

Hundreds Board

Using a hundreds board allows students to recognize the patterns in numbers.

Number Lines

Number lines give students the ability to grasp the concept of numbers getting larger (addition) and getting smaller (subtraction).

The CVI (Cortical/Cerebral Vision Impairment) students I work with have liked using this number line because of its high contrast. Here is a lesson on teaching with the number line that includes a tutorial video.


Often we can use manipulatives in our learning environment like an apple, a pizza/pie, and even a piece of paper to introduce fractions. This kit provides a variety of choices to teach in a more systematic approach and includes decimals.

More resources and ideas for teaching fractions can be found in this article, Teaching Fractions with Appropriate Materials.


The abacus is of course a manipulative that can be used in so many ways for our students with visual impairments. It is a staple.

You can find a variety of lessons and teaching tips here at Paths to Literacy for the abacus.

Math Manipulatives title with a beginners abacus.
Diorama outdoor scene from Asia with greenery, trees, and a couple panda bears in a show box
Activity and strategy

Dioramas are a Meaningful Project Option

SAM symbols and meaning title
Activity and strategy

SAM: Symbols and Meaning

student with CVI adaptions fractions

Teaching Fractions with Appropriate Materials