Virtual Manipulatives don’t replace the very traditional concrete materials students use during the developmental stages of learning math (counters, base 10 blocks, snap-cubes, etc.). Instead, think of Virtual Manipulatives as an opportunity to demonstrate the proper use of materials. They can also recreate a situation that only technology makes possible.
For example, a simple mouse click can reveal 2 hundreds flats and convert to the equivalent 20 ten rods or 200 unit cubes. An interactive whiteboard (IWB) allows a class to experience this demonstration in a larger format, with the freedom to create any situation since the inventory of “virtual” materials is endless. Traditionally, teachers had to purchase additional, transparent sets of manipulatives to work with an overhead. For years, teacher had to model manipulative use on a table with upwards of 30 students crowding around to see.
Today, students have the opportunity to actively participate in the exploration of Virtual Manipulatives and tend to transition to individual use of “real” manipulatives with more success. There’s more to Virtual Manipulatives than counters and blocks. Teacher favorites include the Number Balance, Algebra Tiles, and the animated Geometric Solid Figures.
Preview the “What Can I Use With My Interactive Whiteboard” videos to see screen shots of sample topics and activities correlated to Kindergarten, Primary and Intermediate grade-level content. Comment on this post with a link to your favorite “virtual manipulatives” sites that offer public access.