There are three common reasons why students don’t want to use the blocks.
They Think The Blocks Are Babyish
It is true that manipulatives are often associated with early childhood education. One of the strengths of the Math-U-See blocks is that they can be used to illustrate concepts from counting all the way through algebra. In fact, one of the most powerful uses of the blocks is in illustrating polynomial factoring. Help your student understand that learning how to build simple problems now will lay a strong foundation for success in algebra. Many students think that algebra is abstract and meaningless. The blocks show us that the relationships in algebra are real, even though we may not know the numbers represented by the letters.
They Don’t Want to be Bothered
Some students need the experience of building multiple problems, but the process seems overwhelming. If your child is struggling with a new concept, you may want to begin by doing several problems yourself while the student watches. Build each problem while describing each step aloud. When the student is ready, let him try building a problem for you. Be sure to stop before you or your student becomes frustrated.
The key is to insist on the needed practice but not to bore the student by requiring more than is needed. Once a concept is understood, the student does not need to keep on using the blocks, unless, of course, the directions tell you to build a particular problem. After all, our goal is to wean students from the blocks and prepare them for independent work.
They Don’t Think They Need the Blocks to Learn the Concepts
If your student is quick to learn a new concept, it is still important to be able to demonstrate the concept with the blocks. You might ask her to show you one problem with the manipulatives for each of the Lesson Practice pages. Another suggestion is to ask your student to demonstrate a problem to a younger sibling. Doing this successfully shows a concrete understanding of a concept. Once this is achieved, we want the student to move on to solving problems without the manipulatives.
Finally, whether you are just beginning with Math-U-See or are a long time user, offering your student time for free exploration with the manipulatives can stimulate interest and actually help in learning math concepts.