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Addressing Hesitations About Manipulatives

Sometimes students and instructors are hesitant to use manipulatives in their studies. This hesitation can stem from a number of reasons.

My student will become dependent on manipulatives.

The goal of using manipulatives is to provide students with another method of representing information. Research shows that the more ways we are exposed to information, the more likely we are to retain it. Math-U-See incorporates manipulatives to provide students a way to visually represent a concept. 

As a student consistently uses manipulatives to model problems, they form a mental picture of the process. Over time they will be able to visualize how to work through the problem without physically using the manipulatives. 

Keep in mind that Math-U-See can be tailored to meet the needs of your student. Students do not need to build all problems using manipulatives unless a particular problem indicates that it is needed. If your student is able to clearly demonstrate mastery, by modeling or teaching back the problem using the manipulative, encourage them to continue solving the problems without using the manipulatives.

We do not advise using blocks on any review pages or the lesson or unit tests.

Blocks are for little kids.

Oftentimes manipulatives are associated with early learning, but Math-U-See Manipulatives are designed to be used in levels from Primer through Algebra 1. One of the most effective subjects for using manipulatives is algebra. Our Algebra/Decimal Inserts help illustrate the concept of x and allow polynomials to be represented in a concrete way.  

To see how Math-U-See Manipulatives are used to teach algebra, click here

Manipulatives are tools used by all ages. Consider the flight simulators used by pilots or mannequins and robots used by medical students. These are just large manipulatives that permit adult learners to practice concepts.

My student will get frustrated or bored with using the blocks.

A student who isn’t confident in math may become frustrated and want to skip using the blocks because it takes more time to use them, or a hesitance to use blocks can highlight the fact that they do not fully understand the concept. They may be trying to rush through problems because they don’t want to spend any more time than they absolutely have to on the subject. Remind them that spending a longer period of time on a lesson does not mean they are falling behind. They are building a strong foundation that will help them as they build their math knowledge. 

Sometimes a very confident student will become bored with using the manipulatives and want to skip using them because they feel it forces them to slow down. They often feel that they understand the concept without them. Often challenging the student to “prove it” can resolve the issue. Can the student teach the concept back through building, writing, and saying and show the ability to apply the concept? If so, then they may have reached a point of mastery for that particular concept where manipulative use is no longer necessary.  

We recommend at a minimum that students use the manipulatives when a concept is initially presented and to teach back at the end of the lesson. Unless specifically instructed in a problem, use the manipulatives only as much as the individual student needs. This will help avoid students becoming bored. 

Your student may only need to use the blocks for one problem before they understand or all the lesson practice pages, and that’s fine!  

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