Friday, August 9, 2013

26th Day: Math Manipulatives for Partners or Individuals

Even though I teach sixth graders, I use math manipulatives often. For many students, it gives them a "visual" to which they can attach their thinking.

While many primary classes use Base 10 Blocks for representing whole numbers, we use them to show decimals...

seven hundredths


three tenths


thirty-four hundredths


one and forty-one hundredths

This also helps students see that, for example, forty-one hundredths is also four tenths and one hundredth, or that one and forty-one hundredths can also be seen as one hundred forty-one hundredths. And this talk eventually translates into a discussion of percents. I have often wished there was a "whole" yellow "flat" that I could actually break (like Kit Kat bars!) into pieces (hundredths). I think that would make the concept even clearer. One hundred little squares on each desk is a nightmare! (Believe me--I've tried it!) The closest I have come is taking "the whole" apart on the Promethean Board...

Storage in any classroom is a problem, and like most teachers I stored my manipulatives in bins.


And I felt I was making progress when I actually LABELED the bins!


However, whenever I wanted to do an activity, I needed to get the materials "ready." "Ready" is  not always easy for me. It seems like the clock is always ticking faster than I can move. And even with a handful of sweet student helpers, it seemed that this process of "ready" took more time than I was willing to spend.

Last year, I finally caught up with the rest of the teachers who had moved to individual sets of manipulatives. What a time saver! I usually ready baskets of materials before class and this makes it easy to say, "If you are sitting at Spot 3, please go and get the basket of manipulatives for your table" or, if I am really lucky (and really "ready"), the bins are on their desks when they walk into the room! I also use "math tool boxes" in my classroom (a topic for another post in the future...) which allow students to always have access to various tools for problem solving.


This is one time when using the "good" baggies is important. (Only a teacher would recognize the difference between the "good" baggies and the "just fine" baggies!). The ones with the sliders seem to work best in this situation. Recently, I separated the "cubes" into snack size ("just fine") baggies. This allows me to use just those pieces for different tasks--or to combine these with the "rods" and "flats" to do other things.


I don't always have enough manipulatives for each student, so partners often share. The "baggie system" allows for quick clean up as well, as students learn to become responsible for making sure all of the pieces are returned to the baggies before they are put away. (I post the count of materials for each bag and I make sure to have a box of "extras" on hand.) This saves me precious minutes for the next lesson because the bags are always "counted" and ready to go! The baggies of manipulatives are stored in a bin in the closet when they are not in use, and some sets remain in the math tool boxes.

How do you deal with manipulatives in your classroom? Do you package math materials for individual students? Do you have any other tips to share for managing manipulatives in the classroom?


15 comments :

  1. great post!
    I store my manipulatives in tubs, but when I know I am going to use them, I do the same thing... baggie heaven!

    Elizabeth
    Hodges Herald

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    1. Elizabeth:
      You're right! "Baggie Heaven" has saved me so much time!
      :)

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  2. I know you are going to do a post, but could you quickly describe your math tool boxes?

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    1. Math tool boxes are simply plastic boxes filled with assorted manipulatives (counters, number lines, rulers, base 10 blocks, etc) Students can choose what they need/want to solve problems.
      :)

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  3. I use the baggie system too. Only I never had a count so that the students and I knew how many belonged in the bag - I think I will have to improve on my system this year. I also use baggies for our money manipulatives. I was at a workshop and one of the teachers shared that they put individual student baggies togehter(not sure if they are the just fine or good ones :) but I know they are larger to hold more) for tests/assessments of the tools the students may need so that they do not have to get up during the activity. They put all the tools they have used during the unit in bags at the student's desks. I will be adding that this year too.

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    1. That sounds like a great idea! I LOVE having everything available so that I don't have 32 sixth graders roaming around the room!
      :)

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  4. I LOVE baggies. I have a box in my room filled with every size. I have a gallon sized bag labeled and filled with each size (snack, sandwich, quart, gallon) For math I usually use quart with a slider or snack. I have 24 students so I make bags of 24 or 12 depending on what it is or how many I have. I have two math classes so I keep the bags in a bins on my shelves. On the day I want to use them I pull out the box and leave it on the counter. Students get the bags by row, so only four kids get up to pass out everything. I use trays, paper plates, or bowls (since they like to dump it out of the bag ) to minimize the amount that hits the floor, but I still have to check the floor before they leave.
    I think a great topic for your blog would be to highlight a math topic and have everyone comment on what they use for manipulatives.

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  5. I teach sixth grade as well and love math manipulatives...I need to buy more. My kids usually get really excited whenever I pull out the tubs. Last year we all had a great laugh when I knocked an entire container of pattern blocks off of my teaching stool with my big butt. After my students recovered from the frightening sounds of the blocks hitting the floor, we all started laughing so hard we were crying. Maybe baggies would prevent such events from happening in the future, I'm sure. ; )

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    1. I love those can't-stop-laughing moments! And they always remember those events...
      :)

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  6. I *really* need to do this! I have 5 baskets set aside and I hope to put Math manipulatives in them to use for the unit.

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    1. YAY, Lana, baskets are the first step (and my favorite part of the task!) I think this type of organization makes things easier...
      :)

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  7. Smart! I really need to do this too. My materials are never "ready" either. It turns into a lot of digging things out of a giant container. I've pinned to remind myself to get organized like you!

    Amanda
    The Teaching Thief

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    Replies
    1. There are pockets of organization... amidst the general chaos, Amanda. But keeping them bagged saves so much time!
      :)

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  8. I use baggies for lessons and little baskets to put them in. Sorting and passing them out moves faster with the sets in table baskets. Good baggies are essential!

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    1. Absolutely--on both counts!
      :)

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