Manipulatives are any various objects designed to be moved or arranged by hand as a means of developing motor skills or understanding abstractions, especially in mathmatics. Children can use these manipulatives to get concret pictures of abstract concepts. Research indicates that the best way for students to learn is in three phases: first, by seeing the mathmatical concepts in a concrete, handson way; second, by drawing pictures that represent the same things as the concrete; and finally, by moving to the abstract, theoretical concepts. The use of manipulatives would be essential for the first phase of learning.
Everything we know about young children dictates that early math programs must be concrete, filled with play and exploration. It's commonly believed that when you hear something, 10% of the information is retained. If you see it, hear it and say it, 40% is retained. But, if you also handle it, you retain 70%100% of the information. Using math manipulatives, handling concrete objects helps the student to learn and retain abstract concepts in math.
The use of math manipulatives develops self confidence, because children have a way of solving problems on their own. They can also test and confirm their results. It's important to use worksheets that demonstate the knowledge acquired.
When you want to teach children about money, what do you do? You pull out some coins and some bills and you explain how much each is worth and how they relate to one another. This is a handson approach to teaching the value of money using manipulatives.
Math Manipulatives are usually cubes, rods, tiles or cards with or without numbers on them. If your child is just starting out, you would use the ones without numbers. One example of this is Cuisenaire rods. But what if you want to teach about geometric shapes or fractions or patterns?
There are geometric manipulatives, which can be used to teach children about cylinders, spheres, cubes, pyramids and cones. Some geometric manipulatives are whole. Others are divided into parts to make it easier to demonstrate the adding or subtracting of those parts. Suppliers of geometric manipulatives usually provide an activity book with many lessons to help the student understand geometric relationships.
Here are some concrete examples of how to use unifix manipulative cubes.
Preparation: Glue digits 09 (or more) to each cube and cover with clear nail polish for durability. Make several sets of each.
1. Count the red cubes.
2. Great for measuring objects. How many cubes long is your pencil?
3. You can make color patterns for the children to copy. Example: Red, red, blue, blue, red, red, blue, blue. As students are creating patterns using connecting cubes, teachers can ask them to describe different patterns that they find in different sequences of cubes. Have the children create and describe their own patterns.
4. Practice ordering numbers 09.
5. Link the even numbers together. Link the odd numbers together.
6. Start with one cube, next to it put two cubes, then three cubes. ( This works best when you make towers that lay flat on their backs)
7. Race to Make a Staircase Object of the game is to build a staircase. (1 tower of 1 unifix cube, a tower of 2, a tower of 3, ...until a tower of 6. You stand them next to eachother so they look like stairs. This is a partner game. Player 1 rolls the dice and builds a tower of that many cubes. Player 2 does the same. They keep going until someone comletes a staircase of 6. If a player rolls a number they already have, they lose that turn.
8. Race to Make 30. Similar objectusing unifix cubes, make a long tower of 30. Each player rolls the dice and adds that number of cubes to the tower. This tower has to stay flat on the ground. Keep going until 30. Partner game.
9. Teach place value.
10. Practice adding or subtracting with the cubes.
A. The teacher will give each child 2 unifix cubes.
B. The teacher will ask the students to write down how many unifix cubes they have on
paper (2).
C. The students should then write a + sign below the number 2, like this:
2
+
D. The teacher will then pass out 3 more unifix cubes to each student.
E. The students will be asked to write down how many unifix cubes they were just
given. They should write this number below the number 2 that they just wrote, so
that it looks like this:
2
+3
F. Students should now draw a line under their 3.
G. Now the students should count how many unifix cubes they have together and write
this number just below the 3, like this:
2
+3

5
Using math manipulatives makes math fun and works well with children with learning disabilities. While traditional methods of teaching math that have proven their value should certainly not be abandoned, educational math manipulatives can and should be used as a resource to overcome those short attention spans for which most children are famous.