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Friday, September 28, 2007

Math manipulative use.

My students have been having a very difficult time working well with the math manipulatives we use for math almost every day. I have been trying to come up with ways to encourage the students to use the math manipulatives appropriately, and to clean them up appropriately when math time is over. This is something I have been struggling with in a way, but in another way kind of just...given up on ever having them follow directions and use the manipulatives appropriately. And I don’t want to give up, so I’m trying to think outside the box.

I was originally planning on devoting an entire day’s math lesson to taking out and putting away the cubes and blocks that the students use for math. That may help to make the students use the math tools the way I want them to be used, but I don’t really like that method all that much – partly because I don’t know if it will actually work, and partly because it feels too boring/behaviorist/militant to me. And also, it always pains me to waste instructional time on classroom management issues (which is either a weakness or a strength on my part - depending on how I think about it).

I just now came up with an idea though. The students have been having a really hard time putting the manipulatives down long enough for me to give directions, and I cannot talk over the constant clank and echo of the noise made by the cubes and blocks banging against each other and the desks. Therefore, what if I take away the cubes and blocks, and instead use quieter manipulatives such as felt squares, cotton balls, and paper squares? The students will still be able to physically manipulate the materials, but I will have one fewer obstacle to deal with. I will still have to capture the students' attention, but I will only have to work on the students being quiet – not the students and their manipulatives. I feel that the noise of the manipulatives is helping to escalate the noise of the students’ voices and the ensuing chaos in the classroom. Therefore, but removing that distraction, perhaps I will be able to help the students funnel their energy into using the materials to learn math concepts, instead of just to make noise.

I am not sure if this is an ingenious plan or a cop-out. Either way, I think I’m going to try it and see what happens.


Blogger Mr. AB said...

Math manipulatives. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Be sure to let the kids play with them before you ask them to work with them. Give them three minutes to build towers, bridges, and pyramids, then require the destruction of all buildings. It's a deal. Playing after the three minutes is thus unfair and illegal even in kid-dom. Also, I make my kids hold their hands up in the air if I have to talk while they use the manipulatives. Anyone who touches the tools while we're supposed to be listening loses them for the day.

2:03 AM  
Blogger Mimi said...

I like the idea of quieter manipulatives, but that sounds like an awful lot of your time to make them...time that could be used in other ways...personal or professional!!

I agree with Mr. Ab....whenever I introduce a new manipulative that we will be using, I let the kids have some free exploration time to discover all the OTHER ways they can be used. I try to give directions before they get their hands on anything, but just like Mr. Ab, if you touch them while I'm talking, you lose.

Good luck!

9:13 AM  

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