A new K-2 StarrMatica Lesson was just launched!

Our farm themed place value lesson was designed to help students discover the meaning of place value on their own and to explore the concept in many different ways.

In the Learn section:

• Students are challenged to experiment with grouping animals to determine what groupings make them easier to count.
• Students are introduced to counting by tens and ones.
• Students explore the meaning of tens and ones with base ten blocks and discover the importance of zero as a place holder.

In the Play section:

• Students are challenged to visualize groups of tens and ones.
• Students are asked to represent numbers with ten frames and base ten blocks.
• Students practice increasing and decreasing a number by tens and by ones.

Check out two of our favorites:

Game:  Aerial Gardening

Count crops from the sky.  How quickly can you count by visualizing rows of tens and ones?

Apple Pickin’

Add or take away boxes of ten apples and single apples to fulfill each farmer’s market order.

This is the sixth in a series of seven posts sharing reasons virtual manipulatives should be the cornerstone of interactive content in the classroom including specific practical examples.  (The previous posts can be viewed here:  Part 1-Visualizing, Part 2-Explore Difficult Concepts, Part 3-Access Materials/Added Value, Part 4- Inquiry Learning, Part 5 – A New Way to Present)

Virtual manipulatives are often thought of as teaching tools, but they can also be tools for students to use to demonstrate their understanding of a concept.   Watching the way in which a student utilizes a manipulative can tell a teacher the depth of his understanding, the source of a mis-conception, or whether or not a student can apply his knowledge of a concept.  For students, using a manipulative for assessment can be a more interesting and authentic experience than paper/pencil tests.  Using manipulatives for assessments can also provide additional support for exceptional students who need modified testing accommodations.

Below are three manipulatives that can help students demonstrate their understanding of a concept.

Number Balance

Students can use this interactive balance to demonstrate their ability to balance equations and finding missing digits and operations.

http://www.crickweb.co.uk/assets/activities/nbKS2.swf

Fraction Paint

Students can demonstrate their ability to find a fraction of a whole and to explain equivalent fractions using halves, fourths, eighths, and sixteenths.

http://resources.oswego.org/games/FractionPaint/fpaint16.html

Create a Graph

Students can use their own data to create a bar graph, line graph, area graph, pie graph, or XY graph.

http://nces.ed.gov/nceskids/createagraph/default.aspx

When someone is first introduced to StarrMatica, we always begin by sharing that StarrMatica is a library of content, not a program or a curriculum.  This is a very important distinction, and one that we have found is foreign to many educators for a myriad of reasons.  Just like our students, we use our prior knowledge to categorize new things, so educators immediately try to compare StarrMatica to what they already know.  Being the first and only library of content in the marketplace creates a unique challenge because they haven’t seen anything like StarrMatica before.  So in trying to make connections, educators immediately start asking questions that compare us to a publisher-based curriculum or an individualized software program.  Neither of which StarrMatica was designed to be.  (One of the reasons for this is explained here:  http://blog.starrmatica.com/common-question-3-does-starrmatica-automatically-choose-content-for-students/) So to help educators connect StarrMatica to prior experiences, we describe it as being just like a library of books.  Educators pick and choose particular pieces of content, just like they choose particular books off a library shelf according to the needs of their lesson and the needs of specific students.

And therein lies the difference between StarrMatica and a “program” or a “curriculum.”  StarrMatica is designed as a teacher directed resource.  Because as teachers, we know that:

No curriculum or program is complete.

Every classroom lesson is different.

Every student is different.

And teachers know their students best.

It is often a great challenge to help educators move beyond the one-size-fits-all program or curriculum comparison into an outside-of-the-box notion that digital content can be used as an effective tool by knowledgable educators to customize their lessons for specific purposes.  Once that connection is made and the difference is clear, it is easy for educators to see the great value of StarrMatica as a library of content that can be used easily, efficiently, and effectively supplement their chosen curriculum.

Meet Carol Broadnax.  She teaches at Highland Catholic School in Saint Paul, MN.  She works with small groups of students in grades K-6 to provide math and language arts enrichment for advanced students. She has an interactive whiteboard, classroom laptop and iPad, as well as a set of student response clickers. She also has access to the school’s computer lab, mobile computer and iPad carts. She checks these out several times a week for various groups.  Carol has been using StarrMatica in her classroom for the past five years.  Here is how she uses our content in her own words:

StarrMatica is extremely helpful in allowing me to quickly locate content that relates to specific state standards. This is very useful since I do not use textbooks in my classroom and I typically present content that is a grade level or two above the students’ actual grade. I am able to locate engaging materials and target them directly to my students’ skill levels.

My students love the interactive lessons which I use to introduce new concepts. I follow this up with the practice and resource activities during the units I teach. I also use the virtual manipulatives quite a bit.

StarrMatica helps my students extend and broaden their learning and it is very efficient for my needs. I am always confident that the materials are of the highest quality.

Two of my favorite websites for exploring beginning fractions concepts with students are Kids and Cookies and Find Grampy.  I share Kids and Cookies often at conferences and during webinars.  I was honored two years ago to meet one of the creators of Kids and Cookies when he introduced himself after attending my interactive resources presentation at PCTM in Pittsburgh.

I used Kids and Cookies to introduce fractions to my students.  The open-ended manipulative allowed them to explore the concept of fractions in the context of a real world problem.  I would choose three kids and four cookies and ask my students how they could divide them equally and “still be friends” when they were finished.  The manipulative then allowed us to cut the cookies into equal parts which would be the springboard for our discussion “What Is A Fraction?”

Being able to choose different numbers of students, different numbers of cookies, and different shapes of cookies opens the manipulative to future uses for exploring equivalent fractions and mixed numbers.