Math Manipulative from ETA/Cuisenaire
When I first researched homeschooling products and resources, I spent quite some time looking at different math manipulatives. For one thing, there are so many, and for another, I love math. I remember wondering whether these colored rods would really be worth purchasing, as they are on the expensive side. And my math education, as far as I could remember, had been accomplished without a single manipulative.
Then I found Miquon Math, and immediately liked the concept. Miquon uses Cuisenaire rods as their primary manipulative, so with some trepidation, I acquired a starter set.
I needn't have worried. The rods made math so much easier for my very concrete, hands-on son to grasp. That was almost a decade ago, and now my youngest enjoys doing his math with the rods.
The concept behind the rods is simple. Each rod color is a specific length, representing a particular number of units. White rods are "units" 1cm long, reds are twice as long and represent the number 2, and so forth. A starter set comes with several of each rod from 1-10, with more of the smaller rods.
The child then uses the rods in combination to visualize basic math concepts. Perhaps it is obvious that addition can be modeled using such rods, simply by putting them end to end in a "train." However, they can also be used for subtraction, multiplication, and division, and even fractions, areas, and more. Using the Cuisenaire rods, quite young children can understand what multiplication means and can work out simple problems.
We actually own a lot of math manipulatives, including both store-bought and homemade ones, but these are the ones I use the most.
Cross-posted with love2learn.net.