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Q&A #6290


Manipulatives

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From: Suzanne A. (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: May 08, 2001 at 07:24:06
Subject: Re: Manipulatives

Dear Samantha,

Since you have not told us what level of mathematics you are considering I
agree with Tim that it is a little difficult to respond. I am a middle school
teacher but I tend to work with students who are not at grade level in their
skills. I try to use manipulatives (including technological manipulatives)
whenever I can because it gives students a different way to approach the
problem. Some people learn best by feeling and doing. They need to "see" the
idea spatially. They need to "move" the object to gain understanding. They
don't learn well by listening or reading. I found, in particular, with
students who were struggling with mathematics that possibly they had not yet
experienced mathematics other than in a symbolic, numerical way. By using
manipulatives and activities they started gaining mathematical understanding
rather than failing at rote understanding (as had been their pattern).

In working out these methods of using activities, however, it is very easy not
to bring them full circle. It is important to emphasize the connection between
what is being done with manipulatives and what the student will see in their
textbook and/or standardized test.

So, I don't think of there being appropriate times to use manipulatives, but
instead I think of making sure that there is transference from the spatial
interaction to the symbolic mathematics.

I've described these ideas more here if you are interested:

Middle School Mathematics Curriculum
http://mathforum.org/alejandre/nctm/position.html

 -Suzanne A., for the T2T service


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