Math Manipulatives
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A Master’s Research Project Presented to
The Faculty of the College of Education
Ohio University
What is the Impact of Math Manipulatives on Student Learning?
In Partial Fulfillment
Of the Requirements for the Degree
Master of Education
By
Beth Ogg, M.Ed.
August 2010
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This Master’s Research Project has been approved
For the Department of Teacher Education
Dianne M. Gut, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Special Education
John E. Henning, Ph.D. Professor and Chair of the Department of Teacher Education
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Table of Contents
Page
Abstract ……………………………………………………………………. 4
Introduction ………………………………………………………………
Review of Literature
5
History of Manipulatives…………………………………………… 5
Defining Manipulatives……………………………………………
6
Use of Manipulatives ……………………………………………… 7
Effectiveness of Manipulatives……………………………………
9
Benefits of Manipulatives………………………………………….11
Manipulatives as Educational Tools …………………………
…13
Manipulatives and Students that Struggle with Mathematics……
Method
13
Location…………………………………………………………….15
Instrument…………………………………………………………
16
Participants…………………………………………………………16
Procedures………………………………………………………….17
Results…………………………………………………………………… 
18 
Implications …………………………………………………………… 
23 
Conclusion………………………………………………………………….25
References and Appendixes………………………………………………
27
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Abstract
The purpose of this research was to investigate the impact of math manipulatives on
student learning in the classroom. For this project, twelve fifth grade students were
randomly chosen to participate and studied in this research. A teacher survey was
distributed to twenty teachers. The survey contains ten questions about the use of
manipulatives in their classroom. The variables being studied are the use of
manipulatives in the classroom and the students’ pretest and posttest scores with and
without the use of manipulatives. Math can be a very difficult concept for students to
comprehend, therefore, breaking the process down by using handson materials
(manipulatives), allow students to more fully understand the operation and concept
involved in the math problem. It gives students a choice of how to work out math
problems with more than just paper and pencil. It can provide added benefit for students
with lower ability and those who are handson/tactile learners. Using manipulatives
allows them to more easily comprehend abstract mathematical concepts.
For decades, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has encouraged many
school districts nationwide to use manipulatives in mathematical instruction (Ball, 1992).
The value of using manipulatives has been recognized for many years, but some teachers
are reluctant to use them in their lessons. The factors that impact the use of
manipulatives, as well as the history and advancement of manipulatives will be discussed.
Finally, a definition of manipulatives and an explanation of their proper implementation
in the classroom will be addressed.
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Introduction
What is the Impact of Math Manipulative Use on Student Learning?
Manipulatives can be a useful tool in the classroom to motivate students and help
them become successful in mathematics. According to the Principles and Standards for
School Mathematics, “the foundation for children’s mathematical development is
established in the early years” (Seefeldt & Wasik, 2006, p. 249). Additionally, it is
important for students to have a variety of materials available to manipulate and the
opportunity to sort, classify, weigh, stack, and explore if they are to construct
mathematical knowledge. “In order to have opportunities to learn math, students need
firsthand experiences related to math, interaction with other students and adults
concerning these experiences and time to reflect on the experiences” (Seefeldt & Wasik,
2006, p. 250).
Educational research (Seefeldt & Wasik, 2006, p. 252) indicates that the most valuable
learning occurs when students actively construct their own mathematical understanding,
which is often accomplished by using manipulatives within the classroom, home, and
surroundings. Providing manipulatives in a student’s life can enhance the learning
experience.
Review of Literature
History of Manipulatives
Throughout history, people of different civilizations have used physical objects to
help them solve everyday math problems. The ancient civilizations of Southwest Asia
used counting boards, which were wooden or clay trays covered in a thin layer of sand
(“Research on the”, n.d.). The people who used the counting boards would draw symbols
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in the sand to tally inventory or other items they needed to count. The ancient Romans
created the first abacus based on the counting board (“Research on the”, n.d.). The
abacus was made of beans or stones which moved in grooves in sand or on tables of
wood, stone, or metal. The Chinese abacus, which came into use centuries later, may
have been an adaptation of the Roman abacus (“Research on the”, n.d.). The Mayans and
the Aztecs both had counting devices that were made of corn kernels strung on string or
wires that were stretched across a wooden frame, while the Incas also had their own
counting tool, which was knotted strings called quipu (“Research on the”, n.d.).
The late 1800’s saw the invention of the first true manipulativemaneuverable objects
that appealed to several different senses and were specifically designed for teaching
mathematical concepts (“Research on the”, n.d.). In 1837, German educator Friedrich
Froebel introduced the world’s first kindergarten. “He designed the educational play
materials known as Froebel Gifts, or Frobelgaben, which included geometric building
blocks and pattern activity blocks” (Froebel, 2009). Then in early 1900s, Italian educator
Maria Montessori continued to support the idea that manipulatives are important to
education (“Research on the”, n.d.). In support, she designed several materials to help
elementary students learn the basic ideas of math.
Since the 1900’s, manipulatives have come to be considered essential in teaching
mathematics at the elementary school level. In fact, the National Council of Teachers of
Mathematics (NCTM) has recommended the use of manipulatives in teaching
mathematical concepts at all grade levels (“Research on the,” n.d.).
Defining Manipulatives
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Generally speaking, manipulatives are any object that is used in teaching math to help
the students see and understand the concept being taught. More specifically,
manipulatives are defined as “physical objects that are used as teaching tools to engage
students in the handson learning of mathematics” (Using manipulatives”, 2009, p. 236).
Manipulatives come in a variety of forms, ranging from simple household items to
purchase at a store. Examples of manipulatives include unifix cubes, counters, calculator,
pattern blocks, tiles, plain wooden cubes, toothpicks, beans, bottle caps, skittles, baseten
blocks, and coins.
Manipulatives are used to introduce, practice, or remediate a math concept in the
classroom. “A good manipulative bridges the gap between informal math and formal
math. However, to accomplish this objective, the manipulative must fit the
developmental level of the student” (Smith, 2009, p. 20). Younger students such as
preschool and kindergartners should have individual counters and larger items than those
used by older students. Additionally, the manipulative must fit the mathematical ability
of the student or it is useless.
Use of Manipulatives
Research indicates that math lessons using manipulative materials have a higher
probability of producing greater mathematical achievement than lessons without such
materials (Sowell 1989: Suydam & Higgins 1977). Handling the manipulatives appears
to help students construct and retain mathematical concepts. Many students also retain
information that has been introduced using handson activities in any subject area much
more easily than information presently only using paper, pencil, and textbooks (Sowell
1989: Suydam & Higgins 1977).
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Thompson (1994) reports that “concrete materials do not automatically carry meaning
for students” (p. 557). Rather, he suggests that the focus must continually be on
“understanding.” Clements and McMillen (1996) were also concerned with what
“concrete” means, and report evidence on the value of computer manipulatives as
providing a concrete tool for students to use. Research also indicates that student
learning is enhanced when the students connect realworld situations, manipulatives,
pictures, and objects with spoken and written symbols (Chester, David, & Reglin, pp. 16
17).
Manipulatives can be used in teaching a wide variety of topics in math, including the
objectives covered in the five NCTM Standards: problem solving, communicating,
reasoning, connections, and estimation (“Using manipulatives”, 2009, p.137).
Manipulatives should “promote students’ concepts of numbers and operations, patterns,
geometry, measurement, data analysis, problem solving, reasoning, connections and
representations” (Seefeldt & Wasik, 2006, p. 93). For example, teachers can use
counters, base ten blocks, place value mats, and fraction strips while teaching the
numbers and operations standard. Counters can also be used to teach oneonone
correspondence, ordinal numbers, and basic addition and subtraction. Fraction strips can
be used to add and subtract fractions or to show equivalent fractions.
Pattern blocks, attribute blocks and scales can be used to assist students in basic
algebra. Students can use geoboards when trying to identify simple geometric shapes
and geometric solid models when learning about spatial reasoning. Teachers can use
standard and nonstandard rulers and measuring cups to represent length or volume in
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measurement lessons, having students bake or cook using measurement. Finally, students
can use tiles when trying to find the area or perimeter of an object.
Students can even make manipulatives for their own use. When it comes to data
analysis and probability, students can make and use spinners to find the probability of
landing on a certain color or area. They can also use number cases or dice to find the
probability of rolling a certain number or combination of numbers. The ways
manipulatives can be used are limitless. In some school, math manipulatives are also
used as a way to get parents involved. An example would be using household items like
beans, coins, rocks, among other materials, to learn math concepts like adding or
subtracting. Practicing at home with family members helps reinforce the concept the
student is learning at school.
When planning a lesson involving mathematical manipulatives, Ross and Kurtz (1993)
suggest teachers should be certain that:
1. Manipulatives have been chosen to support the lesson’s objectives.
2. Significant lesson plans have been made to familiarize students with the
manipulatives
and corresponding classroom procedures.
3. The lesson involves the active participation of each student in the classroom.
4. The lesson plan includes procedures for evaluation that reflect an emphasis on
the development of reasoning skills. (p. 256).
Effectiveness of Manipulatives
Several studies have look at the direct impact using manipulatives can have on
academic achievement. Suydam and Higgins (1977) found math achievement scores
increased with the use of manipulatives. Interestingly, they found that manipulatives
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could be effective, though they were used more in the elementary levels than in the
higher grade levels. Their study indicated instruction of a year or longer with concrete
models increased achievement scores in the classroom, however, short term use of
manipulatives made no difference in test scores.
The following section highlights additional results from several studies focused
primarily on elementary students.
Student’s performance with manipulatives may exceed student performance without
manipulatives (Driscoll, 1980; Greabell, 1978; Raphael & Wahlstrom, 1989; Sowell,
1989). Additionally, student achievement levels are related to teacher’s experience and
expertise with manipulatives (Raphael & Wahlstrom, 1989; Sowell, 1989).
The “relation between manipulatives and their intended referents may not be
transparent to children” (Uttal, Scudder, & DeLoache, 1997, p. 44). Children may use
manipulatives but fail to link manipulative use to the concept in its more traditional
mathematical form. Other studies with young children have reached the same
conclusions (Fuson & Briars, 1990; Hiebert & Carpenter, 1992; Resnick & Omanson,
1987).
As stated earlier, the amount of time spent interacting with manipulatives affects
success for elementary (Sowell, 1989) and for middle school students as they assume
responsibility for their use (Moyer & Jones, 2004).
Understandably, a teacher’s willingness to use manipulatives is related to his/her prior
experience with manipulatives (Moyer & Jones, 2004), and a student’s comprehension of
manipulatives depends on the quality of instruction (Fusion & Briars, 1990; Uttal et al.,
1997; Wearne & Hiebert, 1988). However, inappropriate correlation of manipulative and
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concept may lead to erroneous data and reinforce students’ misconceptions (Roberts,
2007). Wearne and Hiebert (1988) also found students might use manipulatives in a rote
manner, with little or no understanding of the mathematical concepts involved in the
procedures. Therefore, given these findings, it is clear just how important it is that
teachers understand how to appropriately implement and utilize manipulatives in their
classroom instruction.
When asked how they use manipulatives in the classroom, Moyer and Jones (2004)
reported that manipulatives were used for demonstrations, problem solving, change of
pace, rewards, “fun,” and better understanding. Takayashi (2002) indicates that computer
manipulatives and physical manipulatives have different affordances, and both types
should be used in middle grades classroom. However, researchers are unanimous in their
belief that manipulative use alone cannot be expected to improve mathematics education
(Ball, 1992; Raphael & Wahlstrom, 1989; Thompson & Lambdin, 1994).
Benefits of Manipulatives
The use of manipulatives is recommended by the NCTM (“Using manipulatives”,
2009) because it is supported by both learning theory and educational research in the
classroom. “Manipulatives help students learn by allowing them to move from concrete
experiences to abstract reasoning” (“Research on the”, n.d., p. 212). When students
manipulate objects, they are taking the first steps toward understanding math processes
and procedures. “The effective use of manipulatives can help students connect ideas and
integrate their knowledge so that they gain a deep understanding of mathematical
concepts” (“Research on the”, n.d., p. 215).
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Over the past few years, researchers have studied the use of manipulatives in several
different grade levels and in several different countries. This research has found that the
majority of the students indicate that math achievement increases when manipulatives are
put to good use by teachers and students (CainCaston, 1996). Many studies also suggest
that manipulatives improve student’s long term and shortterm retention of math
(Suydam & Higgins, 1977). CainCaston’s (1996) research indicates that using
manipulatives helps improve the environment in math classrooms and schools. When
students work with manipulatives and then are given a chance to reflect on their
experiences writing or speaking, not only is mathematical learning enhanced but also the
student’s math anxiety is also greatly reduced. Chang (2008) examined the work of a
research scientist, Jennefer Kaminski, and found that students understand math better
when they use concrete examples and materials.
Many studies have shown that students who use “manipulatives in specific
mathematical subjects are more likely to achieve success than students who don’t have
the opportunity to work with manipulatives” (“Research on the” n.d., p.226). Some
students need to use manipulatives to learn to count, while other students’ understanding
of place value increases with the use of manipulatives. Research also indicates that using
manipulatives is especially useful for teaching lowachievers, students with learning
disabilities, and those handson learners (Waycik, 2006).
Elementary teachers who use manipulatives to help teach math can positively affect
student learning. Research has demonstrated that students at all levels and of all abilities
can benefit from manipulatives. Mathematician, Seymour Papert, believes manipulatives
are “objects to think with.” “Incorporating manipulatives into mathematics lessons in
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meaningful ways helps students grasp concepts with greater ease, making teaching most
effective” (Munger, 2007, p.184).
Manipulatives as Educational Tools
Lee (2007) provided a variety of suggestions about using manipulatives in the
classroom as a funlearning tool. If students are allowed to have fun and learn at the
same time, it is a great way for students to have a positive learning experience in school.
However, McNeil’s (2007) states that although educators believe manipulatives will
improve student learning, she does not completely agree with this notion. She explains,
“First, manipulatives might lead students to focus on having fun at the expense of deep
learning” (p. 306). The researcher has found this to be true in her own classroom. Years
of experience lead this researcher to agree that manipulatives are fun for students to use,
however, some guidelines should be followed to ensure manipulatives are being used
properly in the classroom. When students are first introduced to new manipulatives,
teachers should allow a few minutes (use a timer) for the students to just relax, explore,
and experiment with the manipulatives for fun. After the initial free exploration time, the
students are then are ready to learn using manipulatives as an educational tool. Teachers
should explicitly explain that although manipulatives can be fun, their main purpose in
the classroom is to help promote the learning of math concepts. Therefore, if teachers
have the time, manipulatives are a wonderful part of the learning experiences and allow
students, especially low level and struggling students to have a deeper understanding of
math concepts using handson experiences.
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Manipulatives and Students that Struggle with Mathematics
Scott (2008) focused on students receiving special education services that struggle
with mathematics. The author indicated, “When students work with manipulatives, they
are using their visual and tactile skills to enhance their learning experience” (p. 2).
Steedly (2008) described a specific teaching method that relies on manipulatives,
Concrete Representational Abstract (CRA). CRA is a three part instructional strategy in
which “teachers first use concrete materials to model the mathematical concept to be
learned, then demonstrate the concept in representational terms, and finally in abstract or
symbolic terms” (2008, p. 8). This process allows teachers to break down the different
math concepts into stages and ease students into the mathematical world.
Finally, Waycik (2006) focused on the importance of manipulatives. When teachers
introduce new mathematical concepts to students, they can be too abstract for students to
comprehend. The use of manipulatives into the equation can help to clarify the problem.
Wakcik explains, “Base ten blocks are just one of many excellent manipulatives available
to teachers and parents that give students a strong conceptual background in math” (p. 2).
Being able to successfully implement manipulatives in the classroom could help many
students attempting to learn new, complex math concepts.
A review of the literature indicates a great deal of research on the use of
manipulatives for elementary students, but a noticeable lack of research on manipulative
use in the middle school grades. Therefore, it would seem to be an area needing further
investigation. Representations in various forms are used to develop understanding of
mathematical concepts. Concrete models provide a representational form middle grade
students would benefit from, if implemented correctly by teachers. The implementation
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issue needs to be addressed in research keeping in mind that all students are different and
learn in different ways.
Method
The purpose of this research was to investigate the impact of math manipulatives
on student learning in the classroom. The research question intended to be addressed in
this research was: What is the impact of Math Manipulatives on Student Learning?
Location
School district. The school district chosen for this study is located in a rural
county in the Appalachian region of Ohio. The city where the district is located lies in
the heart of the county with minimal industry still remaining. Many residents travel to
bigger cities for employment. The county has a high unemployment rate with a low
socioeconomic status. The impact of this is visible each month with the line of cars at
the local food pantry and distribution center.
District enrollment is approximately 4,100 students, with 55% percent qualifying
and receiving free or reduced lunches. The district employs five hundred and forty staff.
The majority of the student population lives in the county with a small percent residing in
surrounding outlying counties. The local school district is widespread throughout the
county and includes five elementary schools, one middle school and one high school.
The district covers 321 square miles with busses traveling 3,000 miles a day. For
the first time in school history, the local school district received an Excellent rating on the
state 20092010 report card, achieving twentyfive of the twentysix indicators.
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School. The middle school used in this research houses grades five through eight.
Fifth graders were added in 2009. Enrollment averages at approximately 300 per grade
level, with total enrollment for the 201011 school year at 1,250 students.
Less than 1% of the student population selfidentified as African American.
Gender is fairly evenly split between boys and girls. Twentyfive percent of the middle
school enrollment is identified as qualifying for special education services.
Eightytwo teachers with an additional 40 support staff, including classified and
attendants work at the middle school. Fiftyone percent of the students receive free or
reduced lunches. The fifth and sixth grade teachers work in teams of two, each team
member teaching two of the four content areas. This configuration helps transition the
students from the elementary to the middle school. The seventh and eighth grade class
schedule s is set up more like the high school, with students having nine 42minute
periods a day.
Instrument
Prepost test. The design for this research study was a pretest, intervention,
posttest design. The preand post tests were designed by the researcher using assessment
questions from the Ohio Achievement Assessment (OAA) available from the Ohio
Department of Education website relevant to the content being taught. (See Appendix A
for a copy of the prepost test.)
Surveys. The researcher also created a tenquestion survey for middle school
teachers to complete, providing input on the use of math manipulatives in their
classroom. (See Appendix B for a copy of the teacher survey.) At the end of the
intervention period, a researchercreated threequestion survey was also given to all
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students to determine their perceptions of which manipulatives they used and liked best.
(See Appendix C for a copy of the student survey).
Participants
Students. The fifth grade participants in this study all attended the same middle
school. Twelve students were invited to participate with one hundred percent consenting.
The students were randomly selected from a total of 29 middle school students in one
math class. There were six boys and six girls with none of the twelve students being
identified for special education services.
This school was chosen because the researcher is employed there as a fifth grade
teacher responsible for teaching math and science to twentynine fifth graders. Twelve
students were randomly chosen from a fifth grade math class to be invited to participate
in this research. The twelve students were assigned a unique identification number to
ensure their anonymity. All twentynine students participated in the classroom activities,
but only the twelve randomly selected for the research were used as the intervention
group.
Teachers. Twenty invitations were sent out to all math teachers in the middle
school. All twenty responded to the survey, which included seven 5 ^{t}^{h} grade, eight 6 ^{t}^{h}
grade, two 7 ^{t}^{h} grade, and three 8 ^{t}^{h} grade math teachers.
Procedures
Following approval from the University Institutional Review Board (IRB), an
informational letter was mailed to parents of the potential participants. The parental letter
requested permission to have their student participate in the research project. One week
after the letter was mailed out, before the school year even began, the researcher received
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a list of all students in the classroom where the instruction would take place. Twelve
students were randomly selected from the list without knowing who or where they were
from. Students were not aware which students in the class were chosen for the sample.
Prior to instruction, the researcher distributed the pretest to all twentyfour
students in the classroom. Students were only allowed to use pencil, and paper. Students
were given fortyfive minutes during a regular math class to complete the pretest. The
researcher gathered the pretest from students when the test was completed.
During the next two weeks, students completed all math lessons using
manipulatives. Students meet for a double block (84 minutes) of math daily. During the
two weeks of instruction, the content covered was a review of the 4 ^{t}^{h} grade indicators.
These included area, angles, money, measurement, patterns, fractions, and basic math
operations.
Prior to each lesson, time was taken to provide instruction on how to use the
manipulatives to assist with problem solving. The posttest was given using the
manipulatives at the conclusion of the two weeks after all content areas were reviewed.
The student survey was completed after lunch during study skills class on the
same day participants completed the posttest. The researcher has access to the same
students for study skills, math, and science classes each day.
A hard copy of the teacher survey was distributed in each teacher’s mailbox at the
beginning of the study. Teachers were asked to return the completed survey via hard
copy or email by the end of the two week period of the study.
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Results
The researcher graded all the responses and charted each student’s grades for the
pretest and posttest. This section reports findings in terms of students’ results from the
pre and posttest scores.
Pre and posttest results are shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1
Results of Pretest and Posttest
Student 
Pretest score 
Posttest score 
Change +/ 
number 
w/o manipulatives 
with manipulatives 

1 
75 
90 
+15 
2 
80 
90 
+10 
3 
90 
95 
+5 
4 
70 
85 
+15 
5 
100 
100 
 
6 
90 
100 
+10 
7 
80 
85 
+5 
8 
70 
85 
+15 
9 
75 
85 
+10 
10 
95 
90 
5 
11 
90 
90 
 
12 
80 
90 
+10 
Figure 1 reports the pre and posttest results for the twelve randomly selected
students. The pretest was given to students without the use of math manipulatives and
then again as a posttest, allowing students to use manipulatives for assistance in solving
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the problems. As shown on the chart above, eleven of the twelve students stayed the
same or improved their scores using math manipulatives on the posttest. One student’s
score decreased by five points. This student had been absent from school for two days
during the two weeks which may have been the reason for the lower score.
Figure 2 provides a visual of the pre and posttest results using a bar chart for
comparison.
Figure 2
Pre and Posttest Scores With and Without Manipulatives
Survey Results
Students. All students completed a threequestion survey providing their insights
and opinions regarding the use of manipulatives when solving a math problem. All
students provided input indicating that manipulatives were beneficial when computing
math problems. Some students responded by saying even though manipulatives use takes
more time, they felt manipulatives were beneficial in calculating answers on the posttest.
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Teachers. Twenty teachers were invited to participate in a 10item, researcher
created survey exploring how teachers use math manipulatives in their classroom lessons.
The following sections summarize their feedback, data and suggestions.
In response to a question asking what type of manipulatives teachers use most often in
their math classes, 100% of the teachers responded they use rulers, protractors,
calculators, counters, and coins. Ninety percent reported using base ten blocks, candy,
and dice, while 75% use tangrams, cards, and cereal.
In response to whether teachers use manipulatives for certain students or all
students in the classroom and why, all participating teachers stated they use
manipulatives in oneway or another, and the manipulatives are available for all students
to use. Teachers reported that for select lessons, manipulatives are used for whole group
instruction as well as small group instruction.
Teachers reported several advantages and disadvantages of using manipulatives to
assist with teaching math. Reported advantages included providing handson learning for
students, keeping students actively involved in the lesson, providing a tactile method of
learning for students, and offering students another advantage in learning a particular
concept. Reported disadvantages to the use of manipulatives in the classroom included:
that it is time consuming to include manipulatives in planning and preparing for lesson,
limited availability of manipulatives, as well as no funding available for purchasing
enough manipulatives to accommodate the large number of students in the class.
Teachers also reported difficulty providing enough structure to deal with classroom
management issues when doing a handson lesson using manipulatives. Finally, teachers
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reported not having enough classroom space to provide opportunities for students to use
manipulatives during instruction.
All teachers responded that they use manipulatives as a resource and to provide an
alternative method for students to learn concepts being taught. Additionally, all teachers
responded that manipulatives definitely help students find answers along with
understanding the math concept being taught. The kinesthetic approach keeps students
actively participating in the lesson, and allows them to work through a concept using a
different teaching style, observing, and participating in the entire process.
When teachers were asked whether they noticed a difference in lessons taught
using manipulatives compared to lessons taught not using them, all teachers agreed there
definitely is a difference when students are given the opportunity for handson learning.
The majority also stated that student feedback and participation increases during a lesson
with manipulatives. Teachers believed that using concrete manipulatives in connection
with abstract concepts allows students more than one way to understand the concept
being taught.
Teachers reported that having students with such a large range of abilities
in one class, they must use a variety of teaching styles and methods to meet all students’
needs in order to give them the opportunity to learn.
When teachers were asked whether using manipulatives helps students’
understanding of math concepts in the future and provides real life experiences, teachers
unanimously agreed and reported that handson experience provides real life experience
on a daily basis, whether it be as simple as counting back change, measuring, or
calculating numbers. Teachers believe their students need to be aware that math is used
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everywhere in life and having a basic understanding of mathematics can help them in the
future and in all their real life experiences.
When asked what types of manipulatives they used and which mathematic
topics/concepts they used manipulatives with, teachers reported using calculators for
simple mathematic problem solving and checking answers. They used protractors for
measuring angles and drawing. Rulers were used for standard and metric measurement,
money for basic money concepts, counting, and purchasing; and base ten blocks are used
to teach place value. Teachers use tangrams to convey understanding of shapes, and in
the construction of pictures. Computers are used for math games, reflection, dilation,
transformation, and to reinforce math skills. Household items such as straws and beads
are used for counting and teaching place value. Candy and cereal are used in the teaching
of patterns, ratios, graphing, and probability. Finally, teachers use dice for teaching
probability, positive and negative numbers, and with games that address basic skills in
addition, and multiplication.
The pre and posttest results (indicating that 9 of 12 students had increased their
scores using manipulatives to solve the math problems; two students’ scores remained the
same, and one decreased by five percent) were shared with the grade level staff. A
discussion followed, and all math teachers were in agreement that manipulatives provide
an advantage for some students assisting with their learning and understanding.
Interestingly, teachers who completed the survey also responded that they saw the same
results with their own students, demonstrating a clear increase in math scores when
manipulatives were used.
Math Manipulatives _{2}_{4}_{"}
Implications
These research findings indicate that all students are actively engaged in meaningful,
handson, mindson, and authentic, learning experiences in mathematics with the use of
manipulatives. These findings are in line with the five general goals of mathematics
instruction articulated by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM;
1989) for all students to:
1. learn to value mathematics as so many students dislike math.
2. become confident in their ability in their ability to do mathematics,
3. become mathematical problem solvers,
4. learn to communicate mathematically, and
5. learn to reason mathematically
Additionally, the NCTM (1989) outlines the following goals for mathematics teachers
to:
1. develop positive attitudes toward genuine interest in mathematics,
2. examine and continue to learn about how students learn best in mathematics,
3. encourage students to write about math and make reading and student’s literature
an integral part of mathematics,
4. offer activities that encompass various learning styles and instructional formats to
stimulate learning for all students
5. engage students in an active process of learning in which they create and discover
mathematical concepts,
6. use a variety of assessment alternatives to gain information about what students
understand and how they feel about mathematician order to help them learn,
Math Manipulatives _{2}_{5}_{"}
7. understand a comprehensive mathematics curriculum and build upon your own
mathematics content knowledge,
8. examine your current practice and take advantage of opportunities to learn new
instructional strategies linked to effective practice—internet materials,
workshops, professional meetings, and research,
9. seek opportunities to work with other teachers in learning communities and
support each other in developing new curricular ideas and instructional
approaches,
10. establish high standards for all students and are certain that every effort is made to
provide learning opportunities for each of them,
11. create a positive classroom environment that allows students to discuss
mathematics and make sense of mathematics in cooperative learning situations,
12. facilitate learning by posing openended questions, asking students to clarify and
justify their ideas, and encouraging students to seek assistance from one another,
13. engage students in the use of manipulative materials and active mental
involvement to support their learning of mathematics,
14. teach students specific mathematical content and how to apply mathematical ideas
in the context of problemsolving situations,
15. seek ways to relate mathematics learning to other disciplines to form
mathematical connections, and,
16. use technology to enhance classroom experiences—example, virtual
manipulative.
Math Manipulatives _{2}_{6}_{"}
Conclusion
The findings from this study indicate that teaching mathematics with
manipulatives can be very beneficial to students. The math scores for most participants
in this study improved or stayed the same with the use of manipulatives for mathematics
instruction. Results indicate there should be more use of manipulatives in mathematics
classrooms in order to increase mathematics scores. What makes these findings even
more impressive is that improvements were found after only a twoweek period. The
research has demonstrated to the researcher and her colleagues that manipulatives should
be used more often in the classroom, even though it takes more time out of an already
very busy schedule. The NCTM goals for mathematics instruction are now posted in the
mathematics classroom, behind the teacher’s desk as a reminder and in order to benefit
the researcher, the students, the district, as well as the Ohio Achievement Assessment
(OAA) scores.
"
Math Manipulatives _{2}_{7}_{"}
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Appendix A
PrePost Test
PreTest
Math Manipulatives _{3}_{1}_{"}
1. Joe has $1.45, Pete has $2.30 and John has $1.69. How much do they have all
together?
Put in order from largest to smallest, write an equation, then solve.
2. KJL is shown:
K
Estimate the measurement of the above angle.
3.
Simplify:
9 ÷ 3 + 6 ∗ 5
4. Billy has six pennies and nine nickels. Write a ratio showing the number of pennies to nickels.
5. Complete the pattern:
6. Find the product of
3 x 9
7. Find the quotient of 67 divided by 8.
8. Find the total of the three numbers using vertical addition:
736.24, 17.8, 604.06. Show your work.
Math Manipulatives _{3}_{2}_{"}
9. Find the sum of
:
½ , ¼ , ¾
10. 23 – n = 6
Find the value of n
11. Complete the table and state the rule.
12. Find the median of the following numbers:
6, 3, 7, 9, 12, 4, 8
Post–Test
Math Manipulatives _{3}_{3}_{"}
1. Joe has $1.45, Pete has $2.30 and John has $1.69. How much do they have all
together?
solve by using play money.
Put in order from largest to smallest and write an equation, then
2. Simplify using counters or coins: 9 ÷ 3 + 6 ∗ 5
3. Complete the pattern using tangram shapes
4. Find the total of the three numbers using vertical addition:
736.24, 17.8, 604.06. Show your work. Check answer with calculator.
5. 23 – n = 6
Choose a type of manipulative from the basket to find the value of n.
6. Find the median of the following numbers using the calculator
method:
6, 3, 7, 9, 12, 4, 8
7. Choose a type of manipulative from the basket to find the quotient of 67 divided by 8.
8.
∠
KJL is shown:
K
Using a protractor, measure angle KJL
Math Manipulatives _{3}_{4}_{"}
9. Billy has six pennies and nine nickels. Use coins to draw the ratio of pennies to nickels, then write the ratio.
10. Find the product of with the calculator.
3 x 9 using counters, check your answer
11. Complete the table and state the rule. Use manipulatives from the basket
Math Manipulatives _{3}_{5}_{"}
Teacher"Survey" "
Appendix B
Teacher Survey
Thank"you"for"participating"in"my"research"project,"""At"any"time"if"you"have" 

questions,"feel"free"to"drop"me"an"email"or"stop"by"my"room"(206).""As"you"explore" 

each"question,"please"include"any"or"all"information,"feedback,"data"and"suggestions" you"may"find"that"would"be"pertinent"to"this"research.""Please"be"thorough"with"your" responses.""I"plan"to"share"my"final"report"with"each"participant"at"the"conclusion"of" my"project.""" " 

1. 
What"type"of"manipulatives"are"used"most"often"in"your"math"classes? " 

2. 
Do"you"use"manipulatives"in"your"classroom"for"certain"students"or"all" 

students?""Why?" 

3. 
What"do"you"view"as"advantages"and"disadvantages" of"using"manipulatives"to" assist"with"teaching"math? " 

4. 
Why"do"you"use"manipulatives?""If"you"don’t"use"them,"why"not? " 

5. 
Do"you"think"manipulatives"help"or"hinder"student"abilities"to"find"an"answer" 

to"a"math"problem?""Explain"your"response." 

6. 
Is"there"correla tion"between"using"manipulatives"and"an"improvement"in" math"achievement"with"Middle"School"students? " 

7. 
Is"there"a"difference"on"lessons"taught"using"manipulatives"compared"to" lessons"taught"not"using"them? " 

8. 
Will"students"understand"the"transfer"form"the"concrete"use"of"manipulatives" to"the"abstract"form"of"numbers? " 

9. 
Do"you"think"using"manipulatives"will"help"student"understanding"of"math" 

concepts"for"the"future"and"real"life"experiences?""Explain"your"response." 

10. 
List"the"types"of"manipulatives"you"use"and"the"mathematic"topic/concept"it" is"used"with. " 
Thank"you"for"participating.""Your"feedback"is"appreciated"and"valuable."
Math Manipulatives _{3}_{6}_{"}
Appendix C
Student Survey
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