A Positive Outlook on Math Manipulatives
Math manipulatives have been around for years, but are now becoming increasingly popular amongst educators. Math manipulatives include anything from buckets of pattern blocks, trays of tiles, and colored cubes to virtual manipulatives, or manipulatives colored and cut out by the students themselves. All of these materials can help assist in tangibly teaching children math concepts and by pulling math off the page and into the hands of students. For a child to be verbally and physically taught a math concept allows them to think, reason, and solve problems with the teacher's guidance as well as on their own. Manipulatives can be used in lower levels by children making up stories with numbers that use a certain number of blocks to learning decimal places and place value in older grade levels.
It is important for the teacher to show how manipulatives relate to the lesson. The difference between a manipulative and a toy needs to be clearly drawn out for the children. Ground rules for using manuplatives need to be laid out as well. Since some manipulatives may be costly and the money for them may sometimes come right out of the teachers own pocket, a sense of respect toward the teacher and manapulatives needs to be established. Manipulatives need to be looked upon by the students as a privilege. They do need to have fun with them though and, most of all, they need time to explore on their own with the manapulatives to get used to the idea of them.
Variety and number of manipulatives are good. Many different lessons may require many different types of manipulatives or a large number of manapulatives. Costly manipulatives may not always be necessary. Manipulatives can be made by the teacher, or maybe even by the children themselves. For a math lesson on fractions, a pie or pizza with slices in it is cheap and easy to make. Allowing children to color their pie or pizza and then to cut out the slices on their own will familiarize them with the manipulative. Teachers can also make manipulatives from die cuts and other items located in the teacher resource center. If there are not enough of one kind of manipulative, the class can be broken into small groups and either rotate or choose which manipulatives they would like to learn with. Variety is good so that the children do not quickly get bored and lose interest.
Manipulatives are practical, useful, and helpful. Manipulatives represent abstract ideas, as well as make math more fun. They can also help children foster feelings of independence, self-confidence, self-esteem, and enthusiasm for learning. Studies show great achievement and success through the use of them and some theorists support their usefulness as well. According to Piaget, children move through three stages of development. These stages are concrete or manipulative, representational or transitional, and abstract. Math manipulatives are important because they help children move from...