How do math manipulatives help student learning?
Hands on math manipulatives engage the senses. They allow kids to see how things go together and they are fun to touch. They develop concrete thinking and understanding of the concepts before moving on to more abstract concepts.
In the picture above, there are several different math manipulatives. All of these manipulatives were used to help kids represent numbers in different ways. I made up games and activities with a group of students that needed to practice number recognition using these materials. They had lots of fun and before long they were able to recognize different numbers by shape, order, pattern, etc.
Get creative and use whatever you have available to help engage the kids to learn more about math.
How can you use math manipulatives effectively in the classroom?
It is important to show the students how to use the math manipulatives before handing them out. If they are not correctly used, they are not as effective. Kids need time to practice using the manipulatives so that they use them correctly. They will be engaged and participate when they understand what to do.
Make sure that you have enough math manipulatives for the tasks given. If they are doing partner work, each pair will need a set of manipulatives. Create multiple activities or centers that use different math manipulatives if you don't have enough manipulatives for everyone.
How do you store math manipulatives?
The small rollaway carts with multiple drawers work well for holding many different types of math manipulatives all in one place.
In our school we have big carts that hold several tubs. Each tub has a different math manipulative in it. This makes it easy for doing group work or centers. Just grab whatever tub you need and take it to the area you are working at.