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Manipulatives: The Use in Education Essay

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Updated: Aug 13th, 2022

Interview Report

Mathematics can be seen as one of the most challenging subjects in the primary school setting due to the considerable number of abstract concepts and complex notions. Manipulatives have been used for practitioners to help children grasp the material in a more effective and engaging way (Ontario Teachers’ Federation, 2020). According to Bruner’s framework, such forms of representation as concrete, pictorial, and abstract should be used to help students understand different mathematical concepts (Oxford Education, 2017). In terms of this paradigm, manipulatives are concrete forms of representations that facilitate the learning process and become the ground for grasping abstract notions.

The interviewed teacher reported using manipulatives (both virtual and physical), as well as Mathematics centers in her classroom. The interviewee agreed with the existing views regarding manipulatives and the benefit of incorporating them into Mathematics classes. The teacher also uses manipulatives to present new material, help students practice, and even assess children’s knowledge and skills. Virtual manipulatives can be static and dynamic, and these two forms can be employed during lessons (Matific, 2016). The interviewee utilizes static manipulatives to illustrate some concepts in many cases. This form is often utilized when instructions are given as students need different types of representation based on their learning styles. Whereas dynamic virtual manipulatives are often used to help children practice. The use of tablets is often necessary for such activities, and students can work in groups or individually to complete such tasks.

One of the significant issues related to the use of manipulatives is managing student behavior. When working with manipulatives, children tend to become too active and emotional or concentrated on the objects rather than the concepts discussed. The choice of manipulatives plays an essential role in managing this aspect. The objects should be interesting for students to use but cannot be too engaging as they will deteriorate students’ attention and learning. Switching activities is also a technique employed to manage students’ behaviors. As for the use of mathematics centers, children like them, as reported by the interviewed educator. She often uses centers asking students to place objects in the right place, and the items are arranged based on the relationships between the concepts and the material given to the student.


When watching the videos and observing the work of the teacher, I gained many valuable insights. As for the use of manipulatives, children tend to like such activities and find them interesting. They can apply some abstract notions and certain skills when manipulating some objects. Instead of trying to imagine or understand some abstract concepts, students are welcome to manipulate quite concrete items to solve rather specific problems. Importantly, children are exposed to different forms of representation, which enables students with different learning styles to grasp the material better.

For instance, a simple set of cubes and a chart, which is common in primary school, helps students to practice addition and subtraction. The use of manipulatives and mathematics centers is associated with effective differentiation. Virtual manipulatives often have different levels of complexity, so the teacher may group children based on the level of their proficiency. The teacher used different items and objects when using manipulatives and always introduced such activities with the help of a story she created herself or taken from a cartoon or film. These stories helped her motivate children and keep them engaged during the entire activity.

I have also used manipulatives in my teaching process, but I still learned a lot of important lessons regarding the use of these modes of representation. My major focus was on behavior management as I sometimes find it difficult to make children focused on mathematics rather than funny figures or objects. The use of music, movement are common ways to facilitate the effectiveness of instruction. This observation helped me learn about another method, story-telling. The teacher may also encourage students to co-create stories, which can make children even more attentive.

On balance, manipulatives are helpful representation forms that are often used during mathematics lessons. Teachers instruct children, illustrate concepts and notions, and explain complex aspects. Manipulatives (both virtual and physical) are useful for helping children practice new skills. At that, it is important to pay special attention to behavior management as students may concentrate on the items rather than mathematics.

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Date Clinical B Activity Time Spent on the activity How the Time spent meets the outcomes of the assignment (Rationale)
Sat April 3 I made notes when watching the video () with the focus on the theoretical aspect (drawing models and frames). 29:18 The video is concerned with the use of manipulatives from theoretical and teaching practice perspectives.
Sun April 4 While watching the video (),
I made notes concentrating on tools associated with virtual manipulatives and ways to use them in the classroom.
37:30 minutes The video is a valuable source of information concerning the peculiarities of virtual manipulatives, their types, and methods to incorporate them into Mathematics lessons.
Sun April 4 When watching the video (), I made notes focusing on manipulatives and standards, as well as methods to use them during classes. 1:23 minutes The video sheds light on diverse teaching methods for K-3 Mathematics classes, including the use of manipulatives, compliance with standards, and so on.


Matific. (2016). [Video]. YouTube. Web.

Ontario Teachers’ Federation – OTF. (2020). [Video]. YouTube. Web.

Oxford Education. (2017). [Video]. YouTube. Web.

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