Learning With Math Manipulatives
Many students find math concepts abstract and difficult to understand. Math manipulatives help to make the ideas concrete and easier to visualize. Hands on math manipulatives also connect the thinking with psychomotor activities. These connections help students to remember the concepts or skills practiced. Not only do they learn better, they have fun while learning.
How do math manipulatives help student learning?
Math manipulatives capture the attention of the kids. They like to touch and move things around. They get excited when they get to play games. They don't realize that they are practicing skills when they are playing. They will stay engaged longer and practice more when using math manipulatives instead of just working with paper and pencil activities.
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?
Math manipulatives can be used effectively in large group situations, in centers, as partner activities, and as aids for individual work. Sometimes it is the size of the math manipulatives that determines how they are used. For example, if you are working with a large group, you would want the manipulatives to be large so that they are easily visible to everyone. If students are to work in centers or with partners, the math manipulatives would be smaller so that they don't occupy too much space. For individual work, the manipulatives don't need to be very big.
The ten frames in the picture above were designed with this in mind. Get a set here.
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?
Math manipulatives can take up a lot of space. Using small tubs or reusing empty containers can help with organizing them. I used an old wipes container for my base ten math manipulatives. It had room for a smaller container as well that held the units so they didn't get mixed up in the main container (see in the image above).
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.
As the new school year approaches, I hope these tips help with making your math lessons enjoyable and engaging for your students. I would love to hear how you use math manipulatives in your classroom.
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About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.