Friday, April 15, 2011

Using Manipulatives in Math Curriculum

Most homeschool math curriculum is in the form of textbooks or workbooks, which doesn’t give kids much experience with hands-on math skills. Even if you do an online math program, the images on the screen are still two dimensional. Some children learn great that way, but kinesthetic or “hands-on” learners can really benefit from math manipulatives.

Manipulatives are things like base-ten blocks to learn about decimals, or a pretend pizza pie to teach about fractional parts, or a toy clock with moveable hands for learning to tell time. Real objects that can be touched, counted, or moved can really help reinforce the lesson. Even something like a thermometer is easier for some kids to understand if they can hold it and look at it up close, rather than seeing pictures of one.

Interactive games are sometimes helpful, especially online, but there's nothing like holding something in your hand to help you understand it. A great example of this is the quasi-holiday of the 100th Day of School, widely celebrated in elementary classrooms everywhere. It's fun for kids, but also a great learning tool. One of the more popular activities is for each child to collect 100 items, such as pennies, bits of cereal or candy, sunflower seeds, etc. Seeing, feeling, and touching the number 100 in this way really drives home the concept.

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