Organizing Materials and Students for Hands-On Activities

Hands-on activities and the use of manipulatives engage students in learning mathematics in a way that allows them to experience abstract concepts in a concrete approach. By manipulating everyday objects, students discover ways of solving everyday problems and gain an understanding of math and mathematical concepts. This understanding helps to make the meaning of abstract concepts more apparent.

When using hands-on activities and manipulatives, organization and management is critical for success. Smooth transitions allow your students to use their time more productively and efficiently.

As you view this next classroom clip, observe how Ms. England has set up materials and facilitates their orderly distribution.

Note that Ms. England reviews the materials to be used and what is expected of students before they get started. She then asks the "heart" people (a pre-assigned role) to get the materials for their group. Although there is some debate about the value of assigning a specific role to each student in a group, for hands-on tasks, it is helpful to have at least one student assigned to retrieve and return the materials for the group. Whether or not other roles are assigned (e.g. timekeeper; facilitator; recorder), it is important that all students are expected to be engaged in the task and the mathematical thinking it is meant to promote.