The Use of Manipulatives in the Elementary Classroom

Mathematical Exploration is:

defaultSuccess, not failure

Fun, not fear

Excitement, not boredom

                          Activity, not passivity

                         Playfulness, not regimentation

                         Extensions, not limits

                         Pattern seeking, not just recognition

                         Co-operation, not just competition

                         Surprises, not just routines

                         Questioning, not just answering

                        Understanding, not just memorizing

                        Talking, not just listening

How can the above be established in your classroom?  WITH MANIPULATIVES!!!

I will be posting a photostory of “The New Atmosphere In My Grade 5 Classroom” shortly showing some of the changes that have occurred in my class since I have introduced a more hands-on approach to mathematics.

As I was surfing the net, exploring viewpoints on manipulative use within the elementary classroom, I came upon Mrs. Aubertin’s Classroom Blog and the above poem.  I found this site to contain some very good references in respect to the use of manipulatives within the classroom.  Check it out when you have a moment:

Marilyn Burns stresses the need to help students develop the ability and confidence to find their way around the strands of math while making pertinent connections to past knowledge.  She stresses five key reasons for the inclusion of manipulative materials in a classroom.

Reason 1:

Manipulatives help make abstract ideas concrete.  There is no substitute for first-hand experience.

Reason 2:

Manipulatives lift math off textbook pages.  Manipulatives help students construct an understanding of ideas.

Reason 3:

Manipulatives build students’ confidence by giving them a way to test and confirm their reasoning.

Reason 4:

Manipulatives are useful tools for problem solving.  Building prototypes helps solve problems.

Reason 5:

Manipulatives make learning math interesting and enjoyable. 

Manipulatives must be regularly integrated into daily exercises. Discussing why it is important to use manipulatives with your students will help them realize the validity of the material and make them accountable for how they treat the manipulatives.  Allowing students to also use the manipulatives during free time for non-descript exploration will also motivate students to grow mathematically.  Students tend to explore mathematical relationships during free play without even realizing it.

How to Make the Most of Math Maniuplatives.  Marilyn Burns

Virtual Manipulatives in the Elementary Classroom.  Lucinda Wright

Other sites of interest I came across are:

Journal of Instructional Pedagogy:

The Math Forum:

How to Use Math Manipulatives in the Classroom

Manipulatives In Middle Grades Mathematics


About musingsofamathteacher

I am presently employed at New Sarepta Elementary School as a grade five teacher. During my career I have taught Grades 12 - 2. The past three years I was fortunate to work part-time as Math Lead for my school district, Black Gold Regional Schools, and have just recently accepted a part-time secondment with Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium. I have always had a passion for mathematics and am excited about implementing Alberta's "new" mathematics curriculum.
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