Manipulatives help to make abstract math concepts concrete and understandable. Students can make manipulatives from objects that they find around the house, but another great option that is compatible with online instruction is virtual manipulatives. Didax, a store for math materials, offers basic virtual manipulatives including ten frames, number lines, two-color counters, base ten blocks, dice, spinners, and a geoboard. The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives also offers interactive web-based virtual manipulatives and concept explanations for math. However, these are somewhat outdated and are not compatible with Google Chrome.
Simulations and Interactives
When math is visual, interactive, and fun it is more understandable and approachable for students who struggle. Illuminations from NCTM offers interactive tools that can be used to model and let students have a “hands-on” virtual experience with K-12 math concepts. Gizmos allow students to participate in an interactive visual demonstration of math concepts. There are many free Gizmos or students and teachers can use any Gizmo for free for five minutes. There are also activities and a vocabulary sheet to go with each Gizmo. There is a free trial and unlimited use is available through a paid subscription. By seeing and moving objects students can gain a better understanding of key concepts.
Accommodations, Accessibility, and Universal Design for Learning
It is always a good idea to present students with several different ways to learn a particular concept and let them choose what works for them. Flexibility within lessons is helpful to students who are struggling. However, there are sometimes accessibility issues with math. For students with disabilities, this often is related to making the connection between math symbols and language. EquatIO, an extension for Google Chrome allows students to voice the math they want to do aloud and then convert it into the correct formula, expression, or math symbol. Students can playback what they have dictated using the Read and Write extension for Google chrome once the dictated material is inserted in a Google Document. It also allows students to type what they would like to do and use predictive text to find the correct formula. In addition, students can use the extension to add sketches and diagrams to their digital work. It also allows teachers to create math activities digitally instead of using handwritten activities that might be unclear to students or cause them to have to go through multiple steps like printing and then uploading documents to turn in assignments. There is a free version of this extension available, and the premium features are free for 30 days.
Lessons that combine a verbal explanation of the process along with interactive or visual instruction help students to not just arrive at the correct answer but actually understand the concept. YouCubed offers interactive math activities, some with videos, as well as a variety of interactive mini-lessons for teachers here that can be filtered by grade and topic. In addition, the tools here allow you to build your own math adventure based on grade level and topic. By visiting Math is Fun parents and teachers can find explanations, lessons, and interactive tools for kindergarten through college math. There is also an illustrated math dictionary, practice questions sorted by topic, and games. Cool Math 4 Kids allows students and teachers to choose math games by topic or use online manipulatives for basic math topics. There are also lessons that present information not just with mathematical expressions but also with colorful visuals and written descriptions of the process. In addition, there is a quiz for each skill that can be printed or used online.
Strategy and Mnemonic Instruction
When students are given a specific strategy to follow, it allows them to think about their own thinking and monitor the steps that they take to get to the solution. This article shows the steps of the empirically proven STAR method/mnemonic to help students solve word problems. Process mnemonics like this help students to keep track of the required steps to solve a particular type of problem. We are all familiar with acronyms like PEMDAS which helps us to remember the order of operations or the acrostic Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally to remember the PEMDAS acronym. Memory tricks like these may help students retain math concepts and increase their understanding. Students may also benefit from using songs, rhyming, keywords or peg words to remember math facts. Sites like Flocabulary that use music to teach basic math concepts may make lessons more engaging and accessible.
I would love to hear about resources you like to use for math instruction. Please leave your comments or questions below or on our Facebook post. I hope you will join me next week on Facebook Live Wednesday at 1:30 to discuss more topics like this one!
Nina Parrish, M. Ed.
Co-Owner and Director of Education
Proud mom of two adorable girls. Teacher who has developed an education business that started at a kitchen table and has grown into a thriving small business... Click here to Learn more about Nina.
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