Engage Students With Manipulatives: We Review Learning by Doing Math Kits

Even teens like math games!

Too often, as soon as our students hit algebra, the hands-on math projects and math manipulatives disappear and the textbook dominates. But teens and tweens are still kids too—kids who are learning more complicated and abstract math concepts and can still benefit in a big way from hands-on learning. We’ve seen that even students who tell you they fear or hate math may surprise you with how much they excel at—and dare we say enjoy—a math lesson taught with hands-on manipulatives.

So we decided to take a close look at Learning by Doing® Math Kits by Carnegie Learning to see what benefits we could find.

Learning by Doing kits are designed specifically for middle and high school students. There are nine kits available: Grade 6, Grade 7, Grade 8, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Integrated Math I, Integrated Math II and Integrated Math III. Each kit provides you with enough manipulatives—everything from markers to modeling clay—for a class of 30 students.

The best part? Each grade or subject kit can be used to teach all sorts of math concepts throughout the entire year, not just one or two units. Plus, the Learning by Doing kits are organized to keep prep and classroom setup time to a minimum, so you’re not scrambling when the bell rings for the next class period.

Three-dimensional, tactile reinforcement of math concepts beyond writing and drawing solutions to problems is really helpful in getting students to make connections. The Learning by Doing Math Kits encourage students to construct their own cognitive models for abstract mathematical concepts using the manipulatives, which makes math more engaging and promotes creative and critical thinking.

We had a chance to experiment with the Grade 7 kit. When it arrived on our desk, we were excited to find tons of manipulatives like algebra tiles, shopping bags, dice and compasses.

Here are three activities we plan to try this year that are inspired by the Grade 7 kit:

1. Cooking With Integers
Students learn the rules for using “zero” pairs to subtract integers and adjust the temperature of “soup” by using two-color tiles to represent hot and cold cubes. Through this activity, kids understand the tricky concept that subtracting a negative is the same as adding a positive by comparing it to warming up soup: Rather than taking out the cold, simply add more hot. Check out the lesson plan, as well as a video, from the Teaching Channel.

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2. Slicing Three-Dimensional Pairs
Students use modeling clay to create three-dimensional figures and then slice them to understand the two-dimensional figures that result. PBS LearningMedia has a lesson plan as well as an accompanying short animated video.

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3. The Game of SKUNK
In this activity, students build an understanding of early probability and statistics using dice to play SKUNK, a game of choice and chance. Check out the step-by-step instructions from NCTM Illuminations.

Included in Learning by Doing Kits:
The Grade 7 Learning by Doing® Math Kit includes: markers (40), scissors (15), algebra tiles (set of 35), index cards (100), glue sticks (15), shopping bags (12), sticky notes (5 sets), Ticonderoga pencils (set of 144), rulers (30), 2-color counters (400), red dice (30), black dice (30), compasses (30), protractors (30), modeling clay (12 sticks). You can also check out the component lists of the other kits.

Special Offer: Educators can order any of the Learning by Doing Math Kits by Carnegie Learning for a special reduced price through September 30, 2015.

Have you used Learning by Doing Math Kits by Carnegie Learning in your classroom? What’s your favorite activity using the manipulatives in the kit?

WeAreTeachers Staff

Posted by WeAreTeachers Staff

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