How Using Manipulatives With Numbers Helps With Abstract Use

Using manipulatives with numbers is an important part of a child's math journey and working with numbers is a building block for moving on to abstract concepts. That means that we need to take the time to ensure that kids have a good understanding of how numbers work.  

Start With Concrete Activities

In order to best help kids understand abstract ideas, we need to start with concrete examples. This means that we need to give them hands-on experiences where they can see and manipulate materials to better understand the concepts and use the skills for other situations later on.

​Counting, adding and subtracting, and changing forms of numbers are a few examples of how we can represent numbers using manipulatives for practice. The more comfortable kids get with manipulating materials to represent the numbers, the more prepared they will be for moving on to more abstract ideas.
I like to use number games and activities to help with representing numbers. Place value activities, base ten activities, and different forms of representing numbers is key. Here are some resources and ideas that I use with my students.
​Being able to represent numbers is various ways is important. This resource helps kids to represent numbers in standard notation with base ten blocks. I also created a set of cards to represent numbers in various forms: standard notation, expanded notation, and base ten form. A bingo game is included as well. These can be used to practice numbers in various ways to better understand what the digits mean. Check out the video below to find out more about how they work and ways to use them.
Not everyone has a set of base ten blocks available for practice, so I made this set of portable  base ten cards. This base ten product allows kids to move around the different combinations of units to form the numbers just as they would with the actual blocks if they were available.

Moving From Concrete To Abstract

Moving from manipulating materials to the more abstract is an important step. After practicing with pictures of the different forms, try using these place value sheets to write out the different forms of the numbers. I have created a bundle of different place value sheets for the various special days so they are useful for any time of the year.
Understanding and representing numbers is just one of the basics for using math in more complex situations. Check out some of my other posts below for more ways you can build up mastery of math concepts and skills.
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The more we use manipulatives and hands-ons activities with kids as they discover how math works, the more kids will become engaged and want to learn more. It is exciting to see kids who once "hated" math learn to enjoy it and even get excited about it. I would call that a big win.

Have fun with your students and watch them bloom with confidence at the same time!

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