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   Fourth Grade Classroom Materials
by Gail Englert

A response to the question:

What types of supplementary materials related to mathematics would you suggest having in a fourth grade classroom?

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What types of supplementary materials related to mathematics would you suggest having in a fourth grade classroom?

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I teach fifth grade now, but taught 4th grade for 13 years before that. I have a variety of manipulatives and tools on hand to help my students make connections between the concrete and the abstract. These are available for students to use during instruction, and during free time activities. I want students to become familiar enough with the materials so they move past learning to use them, into a state where they can use them to learn. It is also important to give students exposure to materials prior to the actual learning activity so the novelty of the item will wear off, and the student can better focus on the task at hand.

Some of the most frequently used math manipulatives in my classroom are:

-- unit blocks (also called Deines Blocks), used in place value explorations, concrete representations of the four basic number operations, and geometry explorations (area, perimeter, volume),

-- multicolored 1 inch cubes and squares (area, perimeter and volume studies; probability -- combinations and permutations),

-- power blocks (based on powers of 2), used for patterning, geometry explorations, and fraction activities,

-- pattern blocks (various geometric shapes with size relationships), used for patterning, geometry explorations, and fraction activities,

-- fraction charts and pieces, used for concrete representations of equivalencies, and practicing basic operations,

-- tangrams (used to study shapes in geometry),

-- measurement tools (tape measures, yard sticks and meter sticks, protractors, assorted gram weights and balances, bathroom scales) and number lines, used for size explorations and practicing the basic operations, and calculators, used for patterning (to remove the tedium from complex calculations, and to allow students to make generalizations and inferences about the results of calculations) and problem solving (to allow students to focus on the operation, and the reasonableness of their result).

These are not the only materials in my room, but they are the most commonly used ones. My students are free to use any of these materials they believe will help solve the problems at hand. This approach offers me many opportunities to allow students to justify their need for a manipulative by demonstrating that it helped them correctly solve the problem. There are also opportunities for me to advise on a better selection, or question a justification, and help the student review options. It also empowers each student to take some responsibility for his/her own learning.

-Gail, for the T2T service

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