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 the education technology software to provide different ways to visualize and deeply explore math concepts, while promoting critical thinking and productive struggle.
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.
Using 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.
ST Math tip: Check out the list of game mats on ST Math Central that you can print for your class to use with the games in ST Math!
Anecdotal evidence confirms the research; educators see great benefits in their student's critical thinking with using manipulatives. Not only when students are actively using the manipulatives, but also when students need to think about which manipulatives to use and how to recreate the problem. As the teacher above describes:
Building the problem then physically moving through the problem provides better understanding of the strategy.
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 viewing or approaching the problem.