April is Earth Month and it’s all about reduce, reuse, recycle. Looking for ways to repurpose and reuse recycled plastic containers? Here are ideas for cylinder shaped plastic containers such like household cleaning wipes come in. Some of these have a very nice dispenser type lid. Cylinder shaped plastic containers hold frozen juice too. Repurpose and reuse any kind of recycled plastic containers as homemade games and math games, tools and manipulatives.

Sorting/ attributes math games: Label and model each container with the different attributes: size (bigger than, smaller than) shapes, colors, heavier/ lighter, metal/wood, living/ non-living etc. Place an assortment of objects in a pile and ask students to sort them into the containers.

Geometry math lessons. Cover recycled plastic containers with contact paper and use to demonstrate the properties of a cylinder. Ask students to brainstorm uses for a cylinder (engine, pipe, and then give each student a container to make a model of a cylinder at work or demonstrate a use. Repeat this activity for other geometric solids using other cycled materials: boxes for cubes and rectangular prisms, party hat or drinking cup for cones, plastic Easter egg for ovoid, balls for spheres. Each student can make his own set and label them, showing how they can be used. Make a shape petting zoo for the class with models the students have made.

Counting math lessons: Place counters, such as beans, milk rings, bread tags, marbles, etc. into recycled plastic containers. Distribute recycled plastic containers to students to use as math games to teach counting. Use this method to demonstrate and practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division tasks. These homemade games demonstrate remainder, carrying, borrowing and other abstract concepts and help students visualize concepts by physically performing tasks.

Homemade games to teach measurement (metric or standard) Have students label their recycled plastic containers with American or Metric units (cups, liter, etc.) Use math games teach measurement by filling with sand, rice, beans or whatever you have.

Fraction and Percents math games: Label the recycled plastic containers with fractions or percents. Fill with colored water, beans, rice etc. Discuss how full or empty it is in terms of percent of fractions. Demonstrate how to perform operations with fractions and percents by adding or subtracting contents.

Homemade games to teach place value: Repurpose and reuse 10 recycled plastic containers. Place them sideways like pigeon holes. Label them with place values thousandths, hundredths, tenths, ones, tens, hundreds, thousands, 10 thousands. Add colored sticks to appropriate containers to represent numbers. This teaches the base ten concept and exponents as well.

Homemade games to teach integers: Make a visual number line to teach integers. Use the same process as you did for place value, only collect 20-30 containers and line them up to make an interactive number line. Use a tennis or ping pong ball to represent the movement along the number line. Attach to the wall under the board with silicone gel this holds well and doesn’t damage paint. Have students come up and move the ball counting the containers.

Algebra math lessons: Repurpose and reuse plastic containers to demonstrate the FOIL method (the container represents parentheses). Demonstrate the PEMDAS method for solving equations by labeling the containers with +, -, x, divide and exponential symbols and placing a certain number of counters in each. By rearranging the counters and labeled containers you can demonstrate all sorts of equations. Students can use them to practice solving the problems.

Problem-solving & Story Problems math lessons. Make the recycled plastic containers represent details in the story problem. Use a dry erase pen (which erases pretty well off from most plastic surfaces) to label the container temporarily. Add or remove counters to represent the action in the problem. For example: ‘Mary has 36 apples. She gives John 27. How many does she have left?’ Put 36 counters into one container (Mary). Remove 27 and put them in another (John). Count how many are left.

Using hand-on materials like these not only saves the environment, but it’s a great way to help students really see and understand what is happening in math lessons.