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Math Manipulatives










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


Beth Ogg, M.Ed.

August 2010

Math Manipulatives


This Master’s Research Project has been approved

For the Department of Teacher Education

has been approved For the Department of Teacher Education Dianne M. Gut, Ph.D. Associate Professor of

Dianne M. Gut, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Special Education

John E. Henning, Ph.D. Professor and Chair of the Department of Teacher Education

Math Manipulatives


Table of Contents


Abstract ……………………………………………………………………. 4

Introduction ………………………………………………………………

Review of Literature


History of Manipulatives…………………………………………… 5

Defining Manipulatives……………………………………………


Use of Manipulatives ……………………………………………… 7

Effectiveness of Manipulatives……………………………………


Benefits of Manipulatives………………………………………….11

Manipulatives as Educational Tools …………………………


Manipulatives and Students that Struggle with Mathematics……










Implications ……………………………………………………………



References and Appendixes………………………………………………


Math Manipulatives



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’ pre-test and post-test 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 hands-on 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 hands-on/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.

Math Manipulatives



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

first-hand 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


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

Math Manipulatives


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 manipulative-maneuverable 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

Math Manipulatives


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 hands-on 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, base-ten

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 hands-on activities in any subject area much

more easily than information presently only using paper, pencil, and textbooks (Sowell

1989: Suydam & Higgins 1977).

Math Manipulatives


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 real-world situations, manipulatives,

pictures, and objects with spoken and written symbols (Chester, David, & Reglin, pp. 16-


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 one-on-one

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 geo-boards when trying to identify simple geometric shapes

and geometric solid models when learning about spatial reasoning. Teachers can use

standard and non-standard rulers and measuring cups to represent length or volume in

Math Manipulatives


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


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,


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 (Cain-Caston, 1996). Many studies also suggest

that manipulatives improve student’s long term and short-term retention of math

(Suydam & Higgins, 1977). Cain-Caston’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 low-achievers, students with learning

disabilities, and those hands-on 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 fun-learning 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 hands-on 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.


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?


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

socio-economic 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 wide-spread 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 2009-2010 report card, achieving twenty-five of the twenty-six 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 2010-11 school year at 1,250 students.

Less than 1% of the student population self-identified as African American.

Gender is fairly evenly split between boys and girls. Twenty-five percent of the middle

school enrollment is identified as qualifying for special education services.

Eighty-two teachers with an additional 40 support staff, including classified and

attendants work at the middle school. Fifty-one 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 42-minute

periods a day.


Pre-post test. The design for this research study was a pre-test, intervention,

posttest design. The pre-and 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 pre-post test.)

Surveys. The researcher also created a ten-question 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 researcher-created three-question survey was also given to all

Math Manipulatives 17"

students to determine their perceptions of which manipulatives they used and liked best.

(See Appendix C for a copy of the student survey).


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 twenty-nine 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 twenty-nine students participated in the classroom activities,

but only the twelve randomly selected for the research were used as the intervention


Teachers. Twenty invitations were sent out to all math teachers in the middle

school. All twenty responded to the survey, which included seven 5 th grade, eight 6 th

grade, two 7 th grade, and three 8 th grade math teachers.


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

Math Manipulatives 18"

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 twenty-four

students in the classroom. Students were only allowed to use pencil, and paper. Students

were given forty-five minutes during a regular math class to complete the pre-test. The

researcher gathered the pre-test 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 th grade indicators.

These included area, angles, money, measurement, patterns, fractions, and basic math


Prior to each lesson, time was taken to provide instruction on how to use the

manipulatives to assist with problem solving. The post-test 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 post-test. 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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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 post-test results are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Results of Pre-test and Post-test


Pre-test score

Post-test score

Change +/-


w/o manipulatives

with manipulatives

















































Figure 1 reports the pre and posttest results for the twelve randomly selected

students. The pre-test was given to students without the use of math manipulatives and

then again as a post-test, allowing students to use manipulatives for assistance in solving

Math Manipulatives 20"

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


Figure 2

Pre- and Posttest Scores With and Without Manipulatives


Survey Results

Students. All students completed a three-question 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 post-test.

Math Manipulatives 21"

Teachers. Twenty teachers were invited to participate in a 10-item, 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 one-way 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 hands-on 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 hands-on 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 hands-on 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 hands-on 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 post-test 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 24"


These research findings indicate that all students are actively engaged in meaningful,

hands-on, minds-on, 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


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,

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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


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 open-ended 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 problem-solving 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


Math Manipulatives 26"


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 two-week 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 27"


Ball, D. (1992) Magical Hopes. Manipulatives and the reform of the

of the education. American Educator, 16, 14-18, 46-47.

Bloomer, A., Phyllis A., & Carlson, T. (1993). Activity math-Using

manipulatives in the classroom.

Parsippany, New Jersey.

Dale Seymour Publications.

Cain-Caston, M. (1996). Manipulatives queen. [Electronic version].

Journal of Instructional Psychology, 23(4), 270-274.

Chang, K. (2008, April 25). Study suggest math teachers scrap balls

and slices. New York Times. Retrieved from math.html

Chester, J., Davis, J., & Reglin, G. (1991). Math manipulatives use and

math achievement of third-grade students. [ERIC 339591].

Clements, D. H., & McMillen, S. (1996).


“concrete” manipulatives.

Teaching Children Mathematics, 2, 270-280. National Council of Teachers of

Mathematics. Cambridge, Massachutsetts.

Concrete Representational Abstract. (CRA). (2007). Concrete representational abstract.

Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, 6, 356-359.

Donvon, M., Suzzanne, J., & Bransford, J. D. (2005). How students learn

mathematics in the classroom. The National Academics Press Journal, p. 3-4.

Driscoll, (1980); Greabell, (1978); Raphael & Wahlstrom, (1989); Sowell,

(1989). Transforming the “underachieving” math curriculum.

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Math Manipulatives 28"

Friedrich, F. (2009, March 28). Wikipedia, retrieved


Fuson & Briars, (1990); Hiebert & Carpenter (1992); Resnick & Omanson,

(1987). Using math manipulatives in the classroom.

Hodge, L. (2008). Student role and mathematical competence in two

contrasting elementary classes. Mathematics Education Research

Journal, 20, 32-51.

Lee, L. (2007). Learning math and loving it with manipulatives and games.

Christian Education, Family & Parenting, 1-7.

McNeil, N., (2007). When theories don’t add up: Disentangling the

manipulatives debate. Theory into Practice, 46, 309-316.

Moyer, P. S., & Jones, Z. M. G. (2004). Controlling choice: Teachers,

students, and manipulatives in mathematics classroom. School

Science and Mathematics, 104, 16-31.

Munger, D. (2007, October 9). Children learn and retain math better

D. (2007, October 9). Children learn and retain math better using manipulative . Journal for Research

using manipulative. Journal for Research in Mathematics, 1-4,

p. 36-52.

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Raphael, D., Wahlstrom, M., & Sowell, E. J. (1989). The influence

of instructional aids on mathematics achievement. Journal for

Research in Mathematical Education, 20, 173-190.

Research on the Benefits of Manipulatives. (n.d.) Retrieved from of manipulatives.pdf

Math Manipulatives 29"

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(1998). Helping children learn mathematics (5 th ed).

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and five-year olds go to school (2 nd ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson


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math concepts easier to understand, 2, 1-8.

Smith, L. (2009). The effects of instructional consistency: Using

manipulatives and teaching strategies to support resource room

mathematics instruction. Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary

Journal, 15, 71-76.

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manipulative materials in mathematics instruction. Journal for Research

in Mathematics Education, 20, 498-505.

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Spikell, M. A., (1993). Teaching mathematics with manipulatives. Journal of

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Math Manipulatives 30"

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mathematics. Journal of Research in Mathematics Educator, 23,


Uttal, D. H., Scudder, K. V., & DeLoache, J. S. (1997). Manipulatives

as symbols. A new perspective on the use of concrete objects to teach

mathematics. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 18, 37-54.

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Appendix A

Pre-Post Test


Math Manipulatives 31"

1. Joe has $1.45, Pete has $2.30 and John has $1.69. How much do they have all


Put in order from largest to smallest, write an equation, then solve.

2. KJL is shown:

to smallest, write an equation, then solve. 2. KJL is shown: K J L Estimate the



Estimate the measurement of the above angle.



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:

the number of pennies to nickels. 5. Complete the pattern: 6. Find the product of 3

6. Find the product of

3 x 9

7. Find the quotient of 67 divided by 8.

product of 3 x 9 7. Find the quotient of 67 divided by 8. 8. Find

8. Find the total of the three numbers using vertical addition:

736.24, 17.8, 604.06. Show your work.

Math Manipulatives 32"

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.

""in" out " Rule:" " 28 7 " 16 1 5 0
out "

12. Find the median of the following numbers:

6, 3, 7, 9, 12, 4, 8


Math Manipulatives 33"

1. Joe has $1.45, Pete has $2.30 and John has $1.69. How much do they have all


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

3 + 6 ∗ 5 3. Complete the pattern using tangram shapes 4. Find the total
3 + 6 ∗ 5 3. Complete the pattern using tangram shapes 4. Find the total
3 + 6 ∗ 5 3. Complete the pattern using tangram shapes 4. Find the total

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


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.


KJL is shown:



Using a protractor, measure angle KJL

Math Manipulatives 34"

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

""in" out " Rule:" " 28 7 " 16 1 5 0 12. Find the
out "
12. Find the sum of
your book
½ , ¼ , ¾
Use the circle template from

Math Manipulatives 35"

Teacher"Survey" "

Appendix B

Teacher Survey



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.""" "



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







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


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







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


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


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







List"the"types"of"manipulatives"you"use"and"the"mathematic"topic/concept"it" is"used"with. "


Math Manipulatives 36"

Appendix C

Student Survey

Student"Survey " "
Student"Survey "
of"the"research"study"and"after"the"postZ test"has"been"taken. "
What"test"was"easier"for"you"to"answer"the"questions?""Why? "
to"the"question?""Explain"your"answer. "
If"you" had"the"option"of"using"manipulatives"on"all"math"assessments,"
would"you"use"them?""Why"or"why"not? "