How I Use It
Number Pieces by Math Learning Center is a free app provided to be used in conjunction with their curriculum, Bridges 2. However, it's a great app for use with any math program, since the use of base ten blocks is ubiquitous in elementary mathematics programs. It consists of base ten blocks with ones (units), tens (rods), hundreds (flats), and thousands (blocks). Base ten blocks are used to model numbers, as well as arrays. They are immensely useful in demonstrating place value, addition and subtraction with and without regrouping, multi-digit multiplication and division, and dimensions of arrays for modeling perimeter and area. Since these are key mathematical understandings for students, base ten blocks are invaluable, and having tablets with the Number Pieces app is a good substitute for the real thing. It is especially helpful for students to use at home. Although drawing representations of base ten blocks is a great way to show student understanding, opportunities for clerical error exist, so the app is great as an easy way to check work. In class, I would not recommend that the Number Pieces app be used solely as a substitute for actual base ten blocks. Students in my class have used the app at centers where they are solving math problems independently, but they used the actual blocks during guided and small group instruction.
Number Pieces is a great app, even if some of the moves stick a bit. Students can model composing and decomposing numbers, since it allows pieces to be grouped and ungrouped into ones, tens, hundreds, and thousands. This app has edge pieces, as well, to model arrays for teaching perimeter and area. Orientation and color of the pieces can be changed, and there are drawing tools students can use to write expressions and equations. This feature means that students can write number sentences for their representations. My take is that Number Pieces is a tool that should be on every device in classrooms using base ten blocks for supporting student understanding.