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# [Math Musings] MATHEMATICS MANIPULATIVES AS THERAPEUTIC TOOLS

The study of mathematics includes many concepts that students may find difficult to grasp. A teacher may understand the material, but have trouble conveying it to his or her students. This experience is frustrating for both instructors and pupils.

Complicating the matter is the very nature of the way mathematics are taught in schools. Children are expected to have understood what was communicated the previous day, but many seem at a loss. Therefore the teacher spends precious class time reviewing concepts and examples that were already taught. This review is so necessary that one math class is actually akin to two.

The education community has come to realize and appreciate different learning styles and types of learners. While some children possess the ability to form a picture in their minds based on the traditional method of listening to a teacher’s explanation, other children learn better when a more practical hands-on approach is implemented.

Involving the natural senses is crucial in helping these students to learn. Some ways of applying this principle are:

One – A simple, low-tech example is drawing pictures on the board to represent the mathematical concept being taught. This makes use of the sense of vision.

Two – Simple blocks can be used by young children in the lower grades. Manipulating the blocks may help reinforce math concepts such as elementary addition and subtraction, by involving the sense of touch.

Three – In the middle grades, pattern blocks serve various purposes. These are wooden shapes of various shapes and sizes that when assembled in different ways, form patterns. Some of the shapes fit togethr to form another of the shapes. This provides the ability for them to be applied to the study of fractions. Mathematics can be shown to be an art form, as pattern blocks can be used to create mosaics. When “playing” with mosaics, students interact using senses both of vision and touch.

Four – Cuisenaire rods of different colors and sizes can help students understand tough concepts in multiplication and division, as well as addition and subtraction. Ideas about fractions and square roots can be made simpler as well. Maria Montessori implemented the use of these colored rods in her schools as far back as 1907.

Five – Geoboards are employed as geometry aids. They can assist the instructor in teaching concepts such as perimeter and area. Geoboards work by rubber bands being around protruding pegs. In this way students experience tangibly building various geometric shapes and actually viewing how the applied concepts appear.