Math seems quite a challenging subject especially when you have issues with numbers and their relationships. A learning disability like dyscalculia takes a toll on a person’s understanding of numbers. Because of this learning disorder, they struggle in learning math and arithmetic operations the conventional way. Experts suggest the use of alternative teaching methods like the use of games, number talk sessions, and etc. to make the path a little easier. Amongst all these methods is the use of manipulatives. In this post, we explain the benefits of using manipulatives in math.
Before we dissect all the benefits, let’s find out what researchers have found about the effectiveness of manipulatives in building math concepts among students.
Researchers’ notes on math manipulatives
We all know now that math manipulatives are objects that help us learn math concepts through tangible presentations. Several researchers have furnished findings on these manipulatives while explaining their role in concept dissemination. A few important observations are:
- Manipulatives offer student-focused support for teaching complex subject like mathematics in easily absorbable manner. (Piaget, 1965)
- Teachers can help children see reason behind the solutions they arrive at through manipulatives’ use. (Catherine A Kelly, University of Colarado, 2006)
- Manipulatives offer engaging way of driving students to arrive upon solution to math problems while understanding strategy behind the process. (Role of manipulatives in the Eighth grade Mathematics Class, Michaela Ann Goracke, 2009)
Types of math manipulatives & their role in learning math effectively
Several math manipulatives have found the place among alternative teaching solutions’ seekers. Listed here are a few that stand out in delivery and building of understanding:
- Base 10 blocks: Base 10 blocks offer a cognitive approach to teaching concepts of addition, subtraction, place value, and other basic operations. By adding and removing blocks from base 10 srips, children can understand the logic behind adding or subracting numbers. Moving higher up in study levels, this manipulative offers clear understanding of multi-digit addition, place value, etc.to students with special and additional learning instruction needs.
- Unifix Cubes: Quite similar to Base 10 blocks, the Unifix cubes offer feeling of solving puzzle to students. Thus, they are driven to deeper ingraining of mathematical operations. Students can enjoy learning concepts through a gamified version of math operations. Thus, they start to love solving math questions instead of resisting them.
- Abacus tool: It is one of the most reverred math learning tool popular among teachers and self-learners of math subject. This tool drives students into adopting a strategy-building approach. With the help of giving ample workout to brain induced by manipulating counter rods given in this tool, the learners can build operational fluency.
- Board games: Group learning, competitive feel and the gamification factor of board games help math learners get rid of their anxieties surrounding the subject. These games help build strong numeracy skills comfortably.
All these findings and information on math manipulatives suggest that these alternative teaching tools can take the stress out of the learning process. In addition, these can offer a few important benefits, enlisted in coming section.
Important benefits of math manipulatives
Teaching math using manipulatives delivers several advantages such as quicker absorption of ideas, lucidity in thinking and strategizing, and better numeric literacy. All these are visible in children in the following ways:
- Ingrained understanding of math concepts: Children show deep understanding of all elementary and advanced math skills that can be of great use in high school and life beyond. They can understand prolifically what they are supposed to do when they are asked to solve any math problem.
- Strengthened working knowledge of math operations: Manipulatives boost mental math. These learning tools season the kids’ absorbing capacity and help them understand sustainably the logic behind number sense and basic operations.
- Learning how to solve problems with math concepts easily: Operational fluency becomes easier to gain with manipulatives. For example, a child using base 10 manipulatives can understand the concept of carry forward and borrowing quite competently when they master subitizing activities or learn grouping by employing these.
- Better understanding of use of math in real life: How to give, take, distribute and trade items for numeric values are some of the basic actions that are part and parcel of real life. Manipulatives give initial training and familiarize early learners with these processes. For example, money manipulatives can make a person smart at shopping and while dealing in matters that involve currency and coins.
- Firsthand training for applying math for various purposes: Use of manipulatives is not restricted to numbers only. Fractions, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, etc. are several topics that have a purpose in adult life. Manipulatives ease learning of these topics and groom kids to be a confident applier of math reasoning in various uses.
A word of caution
Though a lot has been written on how manipulatives prove beneficial in teaching, several objections have always been raised regarding their use. In some studies, the researchers found that the effectiveness of manipulatives was not universally uniform. Also, the willingness and involvement level of teachers also interfered with the plausible effects. Thirdly, making children aware of the difference between toys and manipulatives was difficult and it did require strict supervision and systematic intervention to extract their actual purpose.
Manipulatives for learning math do offer proven results provided these are introduced and utilized in teaching process with sincerity and systematic approach. These have helped children with learning difficulties meet their learning objectives in a majority of cases and have rightfully become a dependable teaching aid.
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