Understanding Manipulatives

Manipulatives are a valuable tool for educators to differentiate content and learning in the classroom. Here, the technology and learning tool specialists at SchoolMart explain what manipulatives are, some examples, how they work and why teachers should use them.

Manipulatives are physical objects that are used as teaching tools in order to help students understand mathematical and scientific concepts. Whether brought into the classroom by teachers or students, manipulatives can be sophisticated or simple; homemade or store-bought. They can be used across all grade levels, and can facilitate instruction in many different mathematical and scientific lessons.

Examples of Manipulatives

Any physical object could potentially function as a manipulative, such as dried beans or seeds used to count, or a model electric circuit used to explain how electrical currents move. There are many types of manipulatives teachers can purchase from websites that sell educational materials, such as SchoolMart. These include base ten counters, geometry builder sets, ten frame sets, teaching cash registers, measuring spoons, geoboards, play money, clock dials and more. These manipulatives help students learn about counting, time, measurement, geometric shapes, addition, subtraction and more.

The Importance of Differentiation

Differentiation is the process of tailoring instruction to the different educational needs of students. In every classroom, a teacher can expect to be confronted with a variety of learning differences between various students. Differentiation helps teachers meet the challenge of educating students with various academic backgrounds, by allowing lessons to be tailored to fit students with different strengths and weaknesses. For many students, lessons based on visual and auditory cues are not adequate enough to help them retain knowledge and understanding. Manipulatives bridge educational gaps by adding a new element to traditional education: tactile learning. Tactile learners use their sense of touch and physical cues to understand concepts. As manipulatives can be seen, touched, moved, constructed, deconstructed and sometimes even heard, they are valuable tools for multisensory learning, and help place abstract ideas into concrete reality.

Best Practices for Using Manipulatives

Manipulatives should be chosen carefully, in order to best support any given lesson’s objective. It is also not enough to simply provide manipulatives for students to use; lessons should be constructed so that students are oriented toward manipulatives, and classroom use should be widespread or total. As manipulatives are an active learning tool, all students should be able and strongly encouraged to participate, whether alone or in small groups. Finally, lessons involving manipulatives must include an evaluation procedure, which allows teachers to determine whether the lesson has been effective, and if the manipulatives have improved retention and understanding.

SchoolMart Can Provide Your Classroom with the Manipulatives You Need

At SchoolMart, we believe that proper education requires accommodation, differentiation, access to resources and focused, multisensory instruction. We wish to revolutionize education by providing high-quality, affordable technological devices and educational tools to improve student’s academic achievement. To learn more about what we have to offer, visit our website.