Cheap and nasty? No way!
Some people may wonder why I do not use better materials than paper and dice to develop numeracy skills. Well, I do. But only when they improve learner thinking.
My philosophy to teaching mathematics and numeracy is to focus entirely on student thinking. Student thinking (which I call 'engagement') is a moment in time when the student stops thinking about everything except the task at hand (some call it 'flow')- they are absorbed fully in the moment as they struggle to make sense or meaning out of the information at hand. It is in these rare moments that the learner 'constructs understanding'. And hence these are the most precious moments in a teacher or tutors day.
Everything else is superfluous. Everything else is killing time. Everything else distracts.
So, because I believe that it is only 'what happens in the head' that results in learning I am very utilitarian about my gear.
My only question when using material is: does this facilitate learner thinking?