The fraction circles are a super neat material. If you are unfamiliar with the many ways in which they are used, you can read a little about that here. There is a nice long post about the fraction circles, alternatives to use for them, and more links to even more ideas over at Eclectic Living.
I thought I would post today about some ways to bring your costs down on this material. You may have noticed that our fraction circles are not on their typical stand (identical to the metal inset stands).
Fraction circles stands like these are around $60 through a discount supplier. I was able to find the circles without the stands for less than half of that price. My original idea was that the boys would be done with the metal insets by the time they were ready for the fraction circles and I would just switch the materials. Even if that were true, those stands take up precious real estate in a Montessori homeschool so I like my other solution even better.
While the boys were not done with the metal insets, they were quite done with two trays in our geometric cabinet. For those unfamiliar, one of the drawers in the geometric cabinet is all circles of gradated sizes. Another drawer contains only gradated rectangles. We are still using the other four drawers (polygons, curvilinear shapes, quadrilaterals, and triangles). The fraction circle frames are identical in size to the frames in the geometric cabinet and the set of fraction circles fits perfectly in two drawers. (FIY, the metal insets are the same size as well. Also, the same shapes are already included in the cabinet. You could store your insets this way if you need to for space saving reasons. You could also skip buying the insets and just use your geometric cabinet shapes. If you plan to do so, I recommend first experimenting with tracing a shape that is made from material about 1/16 of an inch thick and then the same shape made from material 3/16ths thick so you know whether you are comfortable with the compromise).
Another possible substitution for this material might be the Pizza Fraction Fun Game. I happened to pick one up for our family this weekend just for fun and I immediately thought "Wow, this isn't very different from fraction circles." I think what it lacks in sturdiness (paper versus wood) it certainly makes up in extra "fun." The main compromise is the loss of the "frame" to control the placement of the segments which would make it harder for the younger students. You could make something like this yourself using free printouts available here.