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Clever Ways to Use Math Manipulatives with EdTech to Facilitate Deeper Learning

Learn from creative ST Math teachers who use manipulatives to amplify math learning.

By Calli Welsch June 30, 2016

Manipulatives are objects that allow learners to interact with mathematical concepts. The learner changes the manipulative in some way, and the manipulative provides informative feedback. Research suggests that using maniuplatives (physical or virtual) has a positive effect on student achievement

Check out how ST Math educators incorporate physical manipulatives with education technology to provide different ways to explore math concepts and facilitate deeper learning:

Create Manipulative Boxes or Sets

Instead of keeping all manipulatives in one box, consider separating them into ready-to-go sets and packets for students to bring out as they need them. Students who can recognize when they need the support of physical manipulatives are taking ownership of their learning

Different types of manipulatives will help students understand different concepts. Cube manipulatives are versatile and easy to adapt for all types of education technology games, while some manipulatives, such as number lines and grids, will be most useful with specific content. Allowing students to experiment with different manipulatives will help them develop the experience to determine which manipulatives will help them the most in different situations.

Use Unusual Materials Such as Egg Cartons 

Manipulatives_LeckieESDC-751878-edited.jpgThese clever teachers use cardboard and styrofoam egg cartons to help contain manipulatives. You can cut off the last two egg portions to create ten frames where each section only fits one unit. In addition to helping students develop a deeper understaning of tens, this can also help prevent small pieces from moving around and getting lost!

Bonus: egg cartons are easy to stack and store when not in use. Some places, such as chicken feed stores, may give away egg cartons for free or low-cost to local teachers for educational purposes.

Other creative containers include mini muffin tins, ice trays, fishing tackle boxes, bead boxes, muffin liners, empty watercolor tins, cookie trays and sheet protectors. 


Ten frames mat created by Bobbi Frensley, from George C. Payne Elementary School in San Jose, CA

Double Up On the Screen

Manipulatives_dryerase-998375-edited.jpgUsing protective sheets and dry erase markers on screens allows students to try different approaches before submitting a solution to the program. This can help students break down multi-step problems and create theories about the feedback they will receive from the program.

Materials that can be used on screens include wikki stix, sticky hands, and dry erase markers, though you may also want to protect the screen with a clear protector sheet.

Using ST Math? Check out the list of game mats you can print for your class to use with the games in ST Math!


Think Big, Not Just Individual

Magnets on the whiteboard can act as manipulatives that are large enough to demonstrate to the entire classroom. Draw your grid, ten frames or chart onto the whiteboard or use a projector. This teacher from Ohio projects a game from ST Math onto the whiteboard and uses large magnets to bring edtech into the classroom and physical space:

Recreate Your Favorite EdTech Games

Do your students have a particular game they love to replay or are they stuck on a particular level? A new perspective could help them try a new way of thinking or approaching the problem.

Do you have a clever use of math manipulatives to share? Tweet to us @MIND_Research!

Read more about what educators are saying about how ST Math facilitates deeper learning, or request program information below!

Learn More About ST Math

Calli Welsch is a digital media analyst at MIND Research Institute. She loves playing board games and editing their rules, which she often talks about on twitter @CalliWelsch.

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