The Power of Virtual Manipulatives

In 2020, Math instruction has gone digital! Of course, students are participating in distance or hybrid learning. Even students in the physical classroom need access to non-shareable materials, especially if you are conducting math centers. First, take advantage of virtual manipulatives. Manipulatives allow students to visualize certain math concepts. Whether your students are learning online or in person, the power of virtual manipulatives is here to stay.

Why Should You Use Virtual Manipulatives in Your Math Classroom?

Research shows that hands-on learning helps students visualize mathematical concepts (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics). Overall, digital manipulatives make this possible. First, abstract concepts become more concrete with the power of virtual manipulatives. Next, using manipulatives promotes conceptual understanding of math standards.

Another reason to use digital manipulatives comes from John Dewey. Of course, even educators in the early twentieth century knew that students learned best by experiencing learning concepts hands-on. Of course, allowing students to experience math by putting materials in their hands is the definition of learning by doing. In addition, experiential learning using manipulatives makes math come alive online.


What Math Concepts Work with Virtual Manipulatives?

From counting to algebraic expressions, virtual manipulatives have a place in every math classroom.

First, use virtual manipulatives with these math standards and units available in my ready-to-use digital math centers. These digital math activities are differentiated; there are A/B slides included for each standard.

In addition, these digital activities also use moveable pieces as manipulatives to help your students solve algebraic equations, represent parts to a whole in fractions, make shapes, and also review place value. Overall, digital math centers with virtual manipulatives are the perfect way to help your students with problem solving and critical thinking.


Where Do You Find Digital Manipulatives Online?

In addition to the moveable manipulatives in the digital math centers, there are also many places to find complementary virtual manipulatives to support student learning. Here are two of my favorite websites to find online manipulatives.


First, Didax includes a digital plethora of hands-on math manipulatives. Cubes, counters, dice, ten-frames, tiles, geoboards, disks, and more can be used with any of the digital math centers for 3rd-5th grades. To begin, try this site for simple, ready to use digital manipulatives.

National Library of Virtual Manipulatives

When it comes to finding free online digital manipulatives, the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives is the best site for PreK-12 learners. The site is divided into five topics: Number & Operations, Algebra, Geometry, Measurement Data, and Analysis & Probability

Of course, each topic has resources for PreK-2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, and Grades 9-12 to use with learners at any level. Because of the vast amount of resources on the site, you can use these manipulatives to differentiate instruction for any student in your classroom. First, help your students that need additional scaffolding by using an Abacus of factor trees. Finally, challenge your students with function machines and circle puzzles.

Along with standard virtual manipulatives, this site also has measurement tools that integrate well with science class, clocks to practice telling time, and dozens of graphs.

The power of manipulatives not only help your students “see” math in front of them with hands-on learning, they provide tools that are safe and affordable even while students are participating in distance learning. Having hundreds of manipulatives at their fingertips gives students their own personal virtual manipulative toolkit.

Try using virtual manipulatives with digital math centers during independent learning, small group work, or station rotations. Overall, virtual manipulatives help promote problem solving and critical thinking for all students.

Want to try a sample of our differentiated digital math centers >>>> CLICK HERE!


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