I like to play with things. Playing with things allows for developing my own understanding at my own pace. And I more naturally make generalizations about them once I’ve had the chance to play. To be honest I’m actually talking about with anything I’m learning, not just math.
I’ve recently realized I haven’t been utilizing this idea in my classes as fully as I could be by using manipulatives. I have to admit that when I started teaching I just thought of manipulatives as silly things for younger children. Maybe it’s that I didn’t have the fortune of learning with manipulatives growing up, but I am now convinced of the power of them. I recently ran across an article recently by Mary Curtain-Phillips titled Manipulatives: The Missing Link in High School Math). In it she makes some important points about why we should be using them throughout K-12 and explains why manipulatives are an important missing link in many high school math classrooms to achieving true understanding.
At #CMCNorth this weekend I had the privilege of attending two sessions which highlighted a manipulative that I have been really wanting to learn about, and that is Clothesline Math. If you haven’t seen or used them, clotheslines are dynamic, hands-on number lines that can be used to learn numerically-based concepts. They have two characteristics I love: they can be used through the entire range of the curriculum and they are a true low-floor, high-ceiling tool. They are a lot like Exploding Dots to me in these regards (ask @jamestanton about this).
Andrew Stadel and Chris Shore have done amazing jobs convincing me to use them in my high school classes. Andrew’s session gave teachers some awesome ideas using things students are familiar with to put the math in their hands with rich tasks. The highlight for me, as mentioned, was the end of the session using clotheslines. It was a great session to transition directly into Chris Shore’s in the next time slot covering how to use these in high school classes. Like his session description said, I promise they will blow your mind!
Go check out Clothesline Math, and give some thought to starting to use manipulatives in your classroom if you don’t already!
~ by Matthew Engle (@pickpocketbme)