Math PK-2

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Math PK-2 > Strategies > Varied Use of Manipulatives

Varied Use of Manipulatives


Using manipulatives for hands-on exploration in a variety of ways supports conceptual understanding which is critical to mathematical thinking. Hands-on exploration also supports fine motor skills development. Manipulatives are effective when learners are able to understand that concrete objects can represent abstract ideas, a developmental milestone often achieved by second grade.

Apply It In Your Learning Environment

  • Provide a wide variety of math manipulatives to build understanding of Symbolic Number and Cardinality through the tactile manipulation of quantity.
  • Any objects can be used as manipulatives and helping learners understand that different manipulatives can be used is important to ensure they do not overly rely on a particular material or tool to solve a problem, especially if it is not available.
  • Encourage learners to be creative with manipulatives, specifically using manipulatives in different ways to solve different types of problems.
  • Manipulatives that have minimal visual distractions are most effective, supporting students' Attention and Inhibition as they practice the target math skills.
  • Virtual manipulatives can support mathematical thinking in online learning environments.
  • Provide visuals to support oral instructions during synchronous online learning.
  • Encourage families to use items around the house as math manipulatives to support problem solving.
  • Vary the materials used as manipulatives.
  • To provide support for variation in sensory input needs, ensure that manipulatives constructed of various materials, textures, sizes, and shapes are available.

Apply It To Product Development

  • Products with digital manipulatives have increased requirements for fine motor skills, so developers need to provide extra support for any challenging motor demands for their younger users.

Use It in the Classroom

  • Considering additional design choices, like using color-coding and allowing learners to resize or combine objects, can support Place Value and Estimation.
  • Design It into Your Product

  • Providing a library with a wide range of digital manipulatives that can be accessed at any time within a math application supports Cognitive Flexibility and Learner Choice as they explore their mathematical understanding.
  • Factors Supported by this Strategy