5 Ways to Use Pipe Cleaners in the Classroom

As promised, I have another round of tips all about using Household items in your lesson plans.  When I started this series, I didn’t mean it LITERALLY, yet here we are *insert upside down smiley face emoji.*  Seriously, there are so many random items you have around the classroom or home that can be used to engage your little learners and I think they should be used to really amp up the lesson plans.   I feel that kids always respond better when you use items that aren’t necessarily “teaching” tools! 

I wanted to share with you another favorite of mine, PIPE CLEANERS.   That’s right, they can do all the things! Their flexibility makes them an ideal tool for getting crafty with your math block and even creating some fun items for your students to take home later. 

Check out my top 5 ways of using pipe cleaners in your math instruction below.   You can grab the assorted set of pipe cleaners I used here. {Amazon Aff Link}

Rounding Numbers

pipe cleaners rounding numbers

I REALLY love this activity because it’s just so simple but fun at the same time!  Here’s what they do: Students create a rounding slider to assist them in rounding numbers.  Put a pony bead on a pipe cleaner. Then hole punch both sides of the number line inserting each end of the pipe cleaner.  Students slide the bead to show the number. Then, students slide the bead either down or up depending on how they will round that number. Super simple. You can find this activity in my 3rd Grade Magic of Math Unit 1.

Fraction Bracelets

pipe cleaners fraction bracelets

This activity gives you double for your trouble, ha!  Not only do students have an engaging way to practice fractions, but they also get to craft themselves a little jewelry!   Here’s how they do it: Using beads and pipe cleaners, students practice making parts of a set. Students use the different colored beads to make fractions.  For example: 2/8 are red, 3/8 are blue, and 3/8 are yellow. You can do several different ones before the students settle on a bracelet that they want to keep.  Students can put a tag on their bracelet to name the fraction made. The tag I used is from my fractions Magic of Math Unit.

Division Problems

pipe cleaners division problems

For this activity, you can combine it with my other favorite household learning tool- SNACKS!  Here’s how: Students have a number and groups drawn for them. Students will split the number between the groups by using pipe cleaners to create their groups and small candies (or counters) to represent their whole.  If they can’t split the number out equally among the groups, it cannot be divided equally. If they can split the number out equally among the groups, it shows that the number can be divided equally.

Associative Property

pipe cleaners associative property

These little pipe cleaner “parentheses” are the cutest!   After creating a multiplication equation using number cards, students can group factors to solve the equation using pipe cleaner parentheses.  You can show students how to group the factors in different ways by moving the parentheses within the equation to solve the equation. Both ways should produce the same answer; it’s a way to check ourselves! I mean seriously, they’re just so cute.

Comparing Numbers

pipe cleaners comparing numbers

Okay, this is SUPER simple, but kids will love it just because they get to bend things!  And you’ll love it because NO. PREP. Here’s what they do: Students can create a comparison symbol to compare different amounts of objects or numbers.  They make a slight bend in the pipe cleaner and voila! Students use the pipe cleaner symbol to compare either set. Easy Peasy!

There you have it.  Super easy ways to incorporate pipe cleaners into your Math plans.  Also, I love combining the pipe cleaner tool with other household items like snacks or play-doh.  If you want to learn more about using snacks in the classroom, check out this post. Or play-doh, then check out this post.

I hope this has inspired you to starting using pipe cleaners in the classroom or during your at-home learning.  Now, back to scouring through the house to see what other fun tools I can dig up for you.  Ha!


Don’t want to forget these fun ideas? Pin the image below to save for later!

pipe cleaners in the classroom

Hi, I'm Amy

Hey, y’all! My name is Amy Lemons and I am passionate about providing students with both engaging and effective standards-based Math and ELA lessons.


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