Math manipulative range from simple counting blocks to geoboards and tangram puzzles. Manipulative work well to solve problems, as a way to introduce new math skills and during free play to explore math concepts. The use of manipulative varies based on the teacher's philosophy of math instruction, but these math materials offer several benefits to students.
Manipulative give the math students a concrete object to represent the concept they are learning. Instead of reading about a math concept or working out a problem on paper, students work with a physical object to better understand what they are learning. Diagrams in math textbooks often fall short because the student can't physically interact with them. The concrete representation is useful at all levels of math, from a preschooler using blocks to strengthen counting skills to an older student using fraction models to understand equivalent fractions.
A worksheet or textbook assignment is limited in the senses it engages. The student only moves slightly to use his pencil. Manipulative give student more freedom to move and get physically involved in solving the math problems. Manipulative reach a wider range of learners, such as those who don't perform well on paper-and-pencil tasks. Manipulative engage the sense of sight and touch. Discussions about manipulative -- either with the class or with a partner -- builds communication skills. You can also use these math tools to write about the concepts. Students can draw pictures and describe what they did with manipulative in a math journal.
Manipulative make math more enjoyable for most students. Completing paper-and-pencil assignments is often boring and tedious. Students lose interest quickly or struggle to get through the assignment. Manipulative feel more like playing than learning, particularly when the students are allowed to experiment and explore with the tools outside of assignments. Even when a worksheet or written assignment are required, manipulative can make the problems easier and more interesting to solve.
Enjoy and have a super week!
Ms. Nora Sierra
Grade 1-A teacher