Ice Cube Tray Math

The best part of math is using manipulatives.  Before we complete our daily math worksheet, I always introduce or practice our objective using some sort of visual or manipulative.  Here is an example of how I use ice cube trays to practice more and less than.  I use this first by demonstrating for the students using the ELMO projector, then I break them into partners and we practice using guided instruction.  I give each pair the title student A and student B.

First I say, "Student A, place 3 pink pom poms into the tray."  (the first time we do this, I give them a specific number and color that way I can glance around the room and see if everyone is doing it correctly)

Then I ask Student B to place MORE yellow pom poms into the tray than the pink pom poms.

I ask them to empty the tray and we try another one.  I ask student B to place 5 purple pom poms into the tray.

Then I ask Student A to place less yellow pom poms into the tray than purple pom poms.

Another great way to use the trays is to practice patterns.  I use this as a center, where the students pair up, one does a pattern on once side of the tray, and their partner needs to copy their pattern and then they switch.  Here are some examples...

AAB Pattern

ABC Pattern

AB Pattern


  1. I love the idea of the ice cube trays. I've never thought of it. Thanks!

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