This is the fifth in a series of posts dedicated to helping teachers understand specific changes the Common Core requires them to make in their instruction and sharing how StarrMatica’s content can help facilitate that transition.  The first four posts can be viewed here, here, here, and here.

One of the major Common Core Math shifts is that students will be required to use manipulatives and other technology enhanced items to demonstrate mathematical concepts.  One way to assist students with concept development is to help them visualize abstract concepts with manipulatives.  Manipulatives can be anything from hundreds charts to number lines to decimal squares—anything that helps students to visualize mathematical concepts.  An obvious example is base-ten blocks. These virtual manipulatives allow students to visualize the “sizes” of numbers indicated by their places in our number system.

Manipulatives also help students to understand the concepts behind mathematical procedures such as using base ten blocks to illustrate “regrouping” in a multi-digit addition or subtraction algorithm.  Manipulatives give students a concrete visualization to hold in their minds when they are computing to understand what is really happening mathematically.  Using a variety of manipulatives in your classroom allows students to choose a tool that works best for them.

In addition to traditional manipulatives, you should also expose your students to virtual manipulatives.  There are hundreds of online manipulatives available which provide you with a variety of instructional options that would be cost prohibitive with traditional manipulatives.  Virtual manipulatives may have added features that bring value to your demonstration, and they may be used to help students learn through inquiry by providing teachers with easily adjustable visual tools.  Students can test their ideas, explore the effects of changing variables, and formulate theories based on results.

Virtual manipulatives provide value in their accessiblity on interactive whiteboards, tablets, laptops, or Chromebooks at school and at home.  Virtual manipulatives are used on both the PARCC and Smarter Balanced Assessments.  Students are asked to drag fractions to the correct locations on a number line or to draw a rectangle with a specific area.

It is important that your students have experience demonstrating their understanding with these types of online tools so that during the assessment, lack of understanding about how to use the tool doesn’t get in the way of them successfully showing their mathematical knowledge.

In StarrMatica’s library, teachers have access to hundreds of virtual manipulatives for ELA, Math, Science, Social Studies, Art, and Music.  Many Math manpulatives also include content guides–lesson plans for using that manipulative to meet specific Common Core Standards.

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