The good side of manipulatives

Update: read also Mama Squirrel's excellent blogpost on the issue; basically there is probably a balance in this, as in everything.

If you haven't, go pay a visit to the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives.

Lots of good stuff there!

So, why would I suddenly turn around and praise manipulatives, if I just mentioned how they're not the "ultimate thing" in math education?

It's just one of those things that can be good, if used right, in its rightful place.

Manipulatives do help students to understand concepts, initially, on a concrete level. But they shouldn't stop there. Kids need to learn to make generalizations. That is where the power of mathematics is.

For example, maybe you'd use The Base Blocks Addition to illustrate the concept of "carrying" to tens and hundreds (or "trading") in addition.

Once the student understands that, they should be able to translate their knowledge into bigger and smaller place values (including decimal addition).

So it's the age-old truth; there is balance in everything.

Or, what do you think?

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