Teachers use a wide variety of manipulatives in the classroom to teach and help students learn. One of the lot is a geoboard. It is a simple mathematical manipulative used in classrooms to allow students to practice and explore basic math concepts. Educators have been using geoboards for a long time, and their application and effectiveness remain the same even in new-age classrooms.
A traditional geoboard is a simple tool made with plywood and has inserted nails or pegs. But nowadays, you can also find geoboards made entirely of plastic. Usually, it is available in a square shape. However, you can also find circular and rectangular geoboards. Students can use colorful rubber bands to make different shapes on the geoboard by stretching them across the nails or pegs.
Like any other tool, a geoboard has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. So let’s see how students can benefit from this tool and what common challenges teachers face when they use geoboards in their classes.
Advantages of Using a Geoboard for Classroom Activities
1. It’s a simple tool
Let’s start by discussing the first advantage of using a geoboard for hands-on activities. A geoboard is a simple tool that requires students to handle and work with only two things- the board and rubber bands. As the nails are firmly attached to the geoboard, there are no chances of them coming off and hurting kids. Rubber bands are also inexpensive and light in weight, which allows students to easily use this tool for fun learning activities. Geoboards are also sturdy and easy to store, so you can use them over and over again.
2. Blends learning and fun
Kids learn better when they’re learning through play. We can’t emphasize this fact more as we all know how important it is for kids to play and learn new things. As a geoboard looks like a toy with flexible rubber bands to play with, kids love to use it. And teachers can use this opportunity to sneak in simple math activities so kids can continue to have fun while practicing math concepts.
3. Keeps students engaged
Fun activities always tend to engage kids better than regular classroom lessons. Using stretchy rubber bands, making different shapes, exploring creativity, etc., keeps students engaged longer when they are using a geoboard. As it gives them a chance to visually represent their learnings and have fun, they stick to it longer and enjoy the learning process.
4. Provides hands-on learning experience
Kids learn better when there is a proper mix of active and passive learning. Geoboards are great for active learning because kids get hands-on learning experiences by creating figures related to the topic of discussion. It prompts them to think creatively and apply their understanding to problem solve. By doing lesson-related activities on a geoboard, kids can immerse themselves in the topic and derive learnings from real-life experiences.
5. Helps in teaching multiple concepts
Geoboard activities can be used to teach multiple math concepts to students. It can be used for kids as young as three years old and as old as high school students. You can teach concepts like geometrical shapes, symmetry, addition, area, perimeter, etc. For older students, a geoboard can assist in learning topics like geometry theorems. A study revealed that geoboards are effective in improving students’ understanding of geometry theorems. The versatility of this manipulative makes it a good choice to have them in the classroom.
6. Invites exploration
Besides guided learning activities, teachers can let students have some fun free play time when they are allowed to use their creativity and find new ways to explore a geoboard. Kids will love this time as it will give them a break from study-led activities. They can use their imagination to make abstract representations and showcase them to their peers.
7. Collaborative learning
The use of geoboards in a classroom setting promotes collaborative learning. When kids make designs on their geoboard and share them with each other, it leads to a discussion wherein they want to know how others came up with their designs and how they made them. You can find students mentoring one another, which creates a positive learning environment.
8. Develops multiple skills
When performing activities on a geoboard, kids use several skills to get their job done. This promotes the development of skills such as fine motor skills, spatial skills, hand-eye coordination, muscle control, and directional awareness, along with math learning. As there is so much to gain, teachers and parents must encourage students to use geoboards, especially during their early learning years.
Disadvantages of using a Geoboard
1. Requires increased classroom management
Providing individual or group tools to students so that they can work with, them needs a higher level of classroom management. That is because there is so much action going on in the classroom, and sometimes it can get overwhelming for teachers to manage everything. The key to solving this problem is to plan the activities beforehand and stay organized. Having rubber bands in individual containers for every student so they don’t fight for it can save chaos.
2. Difficulty using rubber bands
This is especially true for little learners who are yet to develop their fine motor skills. This could lead to problems like students finding it difficult to stretch and insert rubber bands into specific pegs to complete their designs. Therefore, when using a geoboard with young students, teachers must keep their calm and begin by giving students ample time to practice their fine motor skills and learn to use the board properly before moving on to the lessons.
3. Diverted student attention
Kids will be kids no matter what. And expecting them to stay connected to their task all the time is a bit too much. There can be instances when students start playing with the rubber bands in inappropriate ways. They can also get distracted by so much happening around them and get off their task, making something completely different from what has been asked in the activity.
4. It can be a costly purchase
Buying individual geoboards for all students in the class so they can work with them individually can become an expensive affair unless one is making DIY geoboards for everybody. To cut down costs, teachers often buy limited geoboards for their classes to conduct group activities or individual activities, with a limited number of students getting the chance to participate in one session. This does not give students an opportunity to work on it together.
The advantages of using a geoboard are far more than the disadvantages. Therefore, we can conclude that incorporating them into lesson plans will assist in creating an effective learning environment. A geoboard supports student learning via a hands-on approach, which is necessary to challenge their curious minds. At first, young learners may find it hard to decipher its use. But once they get accustomed to using it, there will be no looking back as a geoboard will help them practice math concepts until high school.
- Mudaly, Vimolan & Sibiya, Mandlenkosi Richard. (2018). THE EFFECTS OF THE GEOBOARD ON LEARNER UNDERSTANDING OF GEOMETRY THEOREMS. Il Ponte. 74. 10.21506/j.ponte.2018.11.8.