Using manipulatives in Math is a very common thing. In fact, it is widely encouraged, especially in the younger years.
When I took this class over last year (2008/09 academic year), I was surprised at how little they knew about manipulatives. Interlocking cubes, counters, shapes, base 10 blocks …. most of them were unfamiliar.
Using an inquiry-approach to learning, the children had to become comfortable with manipulatives. A lot of time was spent on this in the last year.
This year, manipulatives are part of the classroom as though they were never foreign. Some need them, some want them, and the new students are getting to know them. It is great to see when the kids choose to “get the counters to help”.
Year 4 is exploring division with two-digit divisors at the moment. While this is something that some of them can do, some students are still struggling with one digit divisors. I can tell which students have been “taught at home” to solve these division problems. They do it mechanically, but they cannot explain their strategies. We work on this a lot. You need to know what you are doing…. the Base 10 blocks have been so popular this week, it is scary! And lovely to see. Especially seeing the confident mathematicians using them too, just because they like the evidence.
Great Math week it was!