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Teachers on a Budget: Essential Classroom Math Supplies

By Kathleen Cantor, 31 Jul 2021

Finding the balance between student success and personal spending in our classrooms is a challenge for many teachers. Often, classroom budgets are limited in their ability to provide even the basics. While you may want nothing more than to buy your students all of the resources they could possibly need to have the best learning experience, you must find a way to do so while stretching the budget.

Whether you are planning your classroom for the upcoming school year or just interested in making sure you have all of the resources your students need to be successful, these classroom math supplies will help you avoid breaking the bank while ensuring you have all of the essentials on hand.

Reusable Classroom Math Supplies

1. Individual White Boards

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Math teachers agree on this all-important material. Endless room for practice without wasting paper? Sign me up! Students working and reworking problems? Interactive and engaging material for students? Yes, please!

While large wall-mounted whiteboards and individual whiteboards may be costly, these dry-erase dots can be a great addition to student desks and serve the same purpose. This product on Amazon gives you the utility of whiteboards without the cost. Students will also love to choose from vibrant colors.

These stick well to most surfaces and can be removed with minimal residue—think activity centers in different areas of the room or on the walls! Writing wipes off with only a tissue, making these a no-fuss addition to your classroom math supplies.

2. Concept Posters

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The value of visuals in the classroom is immeasurable and provides easily accessible scaffolding for student learners. Students can use visuals as they need during instruction and practice. And as they become more comfortable with concepts they can rely less on posters.

Posters should be meaningful and colorful, attractively addressing age-appropriate topics. Students will often not search for information on content-heavy posters even if they are hung up in the room. But they will use quick references as they are available.

This set of seven posters targets late middle to high school algebraic skills at a budget-friendly price.

3. Coordinate Grid Materials

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Nothing says budget-friendly like classroom math supplies that you can reuse year after year with your students. Late middle school math marks the beginning of the representation of mathematical concepts on a coordinate grid. This shift in visualization poses challenges for many students as they work with increasingly abstract concepts.

This set of dry-erase coordinate grids allows students to practice these concepts as much as they need to. Students simply erase their practice in between. These coordinate grids are useful resources for math students at many levels, as they can practice various skills relating to graphing functions. Need lessons and resources on how to teach them? Check out this page!

Must-Haves for Students

4. Pre-Sharpened Pencils

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While pencils make it onto every student's back-to-school list at virtually every grade level, there is no substitute for having a stash of pre-sharpened pencils ready to go, hiding in your desk drawer. No matter how many pencils you or your students buy in preparation for the school year, you will inevitably hear, "I forgot a pencil," almost daily.

While an inconvenient interruption to a classroom lesson, your students will be more successful, engaged, and on task when the missing pencil dilemma is solved quickly.

5. Pencil Top Erasers

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Work on math concepts will be much more efficient and meaningful if students can erase their mistakes and edit themselves. As with pencils, no matter how well prepared you and your students are for the school year, erasers will wear down, pencils will show up without them, and students will be asking you for them.

Rather than waste class time searching for a peer to borrow one from, or worse—have a student sitting quietly unable to erase and move forward—have a large set of these hiding in your desk. They are an essential material for any successful math class.

6. Calculators & Smartphones

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Although the education world is accustomed to shying away from personal technology in the interest of engagement in the classroom, you may be able to save on costs and avoid adding calculators to your list of classroom math supplies.

Virtually every student has a cell phone that they carry with them at all times, equipped with a scientific calculator. They also have the capability of downloading apps that serve as graphing calculators for upper-level math classes.

If you remain uncomfortable with students using personal technology, you can find a set of 8 scientific calculators here for $50.

7. Small Clear Rulers

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Although most students have mastered measuring objects using a ruler by the time they reach middle and high school, these clear six-inch rulers remain an essential tool in math class. These rulers are small enough to keep with student supplies without taking up too much room and clear so that you can still see what is below them.

These rulers support drawing geometric shapes, connecting points on a coordinate grid, and more. This helps students be neater in their work and more exact in their mathematical representations.

Classroom Math Supplies to use as Manipulatives

8. Algebra Tiles

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Much like you will have students who benefit from the visuals, student sets of manipulatives like these algebra tiles allow students to explore the concepts at their own pace in a hands-on way. This kinesthetic approach to learning enhances student understanding while also allowing you to serve different learning styles and differentiate learning in your classroom.

This set provides quite a bit of bang for your buck with 30 student sets. Each set includes 32 pieces, a resource guide with a set of teacher instructions for use, worksheets, word problems, games, and a digital copy of the book.

9. Geometric Shapes

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This set of 3D models allows students to gain hands-on experience with geometric shapes, serving as tools for identifying shapes, understanding volume, and other related equations. These shapes also include fold-out plastic inserts to aid in the sometimes hard-to-grasp concept of surface area. The kit comes with dry-erase activity cards and a workbook as well, providing great value in helping your students understand complex concepts.

Wrapping Up

When you're on a budget, it's always best to prioritize what you need. And even though you may not be able to buy the flashiest gadgets or everything you want, you can still find some budget-friendly gems. School budgets are tough and money is tight, but with a little creativity, you can make the most of your math class with just a few smart supplies.


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