Starting Out with Math Manipulatives
Kids learn by doing, which is why math manipulatives are perfect tools for teaching and reinforcing many areas of learning. Here are a few ideas to make the most of manipulatives in your classroom:
- Provide Time to Freely Explore. Presenting students with hands-on learning can be an invitation to fun, fidgeting distraction – especially if it’s new to them, like the Folding Geometric Shapes™ Combo Set. It’s best to let them freely explore the new math manipulative first. Once students have had time to touch, feel and play with the manipulative, they’ll be ready for more formal instruction. Begin your lesson by modeling the activity so students understand how to use the manipulative.
- Allow Ample Time for Hands-On, Small Group Activities. Remember that there’s a trial-and-error process that students must go through when working with manipulatives. Sometimes students need a little extra time to build these valuable reasoning and problem solving skills. Students gain the most benefits from working in small groups with manipulatives, like the Cuisenaire Rods Small Group Set, which promotes social and communication skills.
- Assess Them. When possible, observe students as they work with math manipulatives, like Geoboards, and encourage feedback to ensure that manipulatives help your students understand abstract concepts.
- Help Students Transition to Pencil and Paper. The goal is to help children learn abstract concepts. Math manipulatives are a way to introduce those concepts through tangible activities. The next step, then, is to graduate to a representational manner —showing students the math concepts using pictures that stand for the manipulatives. Lastly is through abstract measures —using pencil and paper to express the concepts with symbols (or equations). This transition (from concrete to representational to abstract) helps ensure that students succeed on standardized tests. Our website has lots of Bonus Content to help with this transition.
- Use More Than One Kind & Make Storage Easy. Because learners often associate a task with the math manipulative used, it’s best to use more than one kind of manipulative for activities on the same topic. Different textures, colors, and shapes of manipulatives also cater to various learning styles.
When the activity is done, conveniently store your manipulatives in buckets or totes. Small, heavy duty, zip-top plastic bags are also great for storing small, presorted sets for use in centers, small groups, or take-home lessons. Lots of our manipulatives, like the Backyard Bugs™ counters, are packed in reusable storage containers.
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