As a math guru, you know math manipulatives are one of the best tools you can have as a teacher. However, have you ever tried digital math manipulatives? I will be the first to admit I wasn’t always a big fan of digital math manipulatives because I felt it was best for students to have the pieces in their hands. However, I found five great reasons to use digital math manipulatives in your classroom, and I have three great resources you can use in your classroom as soon as tomorrow!
Digital Math Manipulatives are Accessible and Available
While physical math manipulatives are incredibly effective, they are also incredibly expensive. To have every type of math manipulative you need for every single student you teach is not always realistic. Plus, they are easy to lose and, eventually, they wear out. This is especially true if the school has purchased one set that you have to check out from someone. If a teacher does have a class set all to his/herself, it is likely the teacher spent his/her own money on those math manipulatives so their students could each have a set. However, digital math manipulatives are always available to every single student for no to low cost!
Clean Up? Not with Digital Math Manipulatives
We always had to check out our math manipulatives from the math closet or an instructional coach. One of the biggest headaches with this was the clean up! There were little pieces everywhere because they get excited, something accidentally falls, or they aren’t using them correctly. So, when you are cleaning your room, you are finding math manipulatives all over the place and your class set or your grade-level set is missing pieces. With digital math manipulatives, there is no clean up because it’s all online! In addition, they are always ready when you need them. This is especially true if you need math manipulatives in your math centers for grades K–5 without having to create a lot of mess.
Modeling Made Easy!
One of the biggest ways I have used digital math manipulatives in my classroom is for whole group instruction. It is so easy to pull these tools up on the smart board during your lesson or to project them. What does this do for you? Well, first of all it prevents everyone from crowding around trying to see what you are doing. Because it is projected, everyone can be in their groups or working independently and see exactly what they are supposed to be doing. In this way, you can be using the digital math manipulatives while your students have the physical tools.
Differentiate with Digital Math Manipulatives
How many learning styles do you have in your classroom? I guarantee you’re probably counting on your fingers right now as you think through your class roster. While some students need that physical manipulative in front of them, others are motivated by technology. Because you know your students, you know what will work best for them.
So, if Bobby loves the computer and will work hard on anything that seems like a video game, the digital version might be for him. On the other hand, Billy needs to be able to touch things and move them, then the physical manipulatives are the best choice for him! The beauty of it is you can use both at the same time. As an extra bonus, you can send digital math manipulatives home with students and not worry about pieces coming back.
Watch Students Grow!
When you use physical math manipulatives, you can’t really see the learning your students are doing. However, with digital math manipulatives you can use one of my favorite iPad apps: screen recording. When your students record their screens, you can see their thought process. Then, these videos can be used as an exit slip or as a math center activity. In addition, students can take screenshots of their work and upload them to Google Classroom or SeeSaw.
Now, these are all great reasons to use digital math manipulatives. However, you can’t use them if you don’t know where to find them! These are three of my favorite digital math manipulative resources.
Toy Theater is a great resource because there are so many different math manipulatives that you can use in your classroom! It is web based, but it has pieces you can drag into place, draw, write things on the screen, and more. There are also quick links that show you similar resources that your students can use to show them a variety of ways different math ideas, like fractions, work.
On Didax, you can get a variety of different resources; however, one of the best ones are what they call “virtual manipulatives”. This website is very clean and easy to navigate for not only students but for teachers as well. While Toy Theater has a ton of options, Didax has a limited variety so they don’t have as many for students to get distracted by. So, if there is one your students like the most and it’s on Didax, that might be the better choice. Didax is also great for games if you need a spinner, some dice, or anything else!
The Math Learning Center
Now, The Math Learning Center is probably my favorite but there are some pros and cons to it. All of the apps on the webpage are just that: apps. This can be good or bad because you can focus on the apps you want. In addition, there aren’t as many options as the others. However, you can use The Math Learning Center as an app or you can download them as an iOS app or a Chrome app as well. This makes them easier to access from your desktop which eliminates some distraction. With this, you get a big workspace that students can draw on and drag various manipulatives on. In addition, there is a calculator to use as an extra resource.
Whichever digital math manipulative website you choose to use, you will find exactly what you need. While I have my favorite, The Math Learning Center, you know what will work best in your classroom! If you know your students could get distracted with Toy Theater, it might be better to use one of the other resources.
There are so many great reasons to use digital math manipulatives. Not only are they readily available, they are also super easy to clean up, easy to model, and fun for students! You can use any of the resources I shared in your classroom as soon as tomorrow! For more tips, make sure you join my VIP Club.
Until Next Time….
Keep Being Educational Rock Stars