Helps Build foundational concrete understandings of abstract concepts
Community Review for National Library of Virtual Manipulatives
This free resource can literally save you the thousands of dollars it would cost to purchase all of the concrete forms of the manipulative tools that are available on this site. These manipulative tools can help students model abstract concepts. Many students who traditionally struggle are able to understand the mathematics when they are provided with visual representations. This amazing site allows you to search for manipulative by both content and grade level. It also provides thorough directions, which are sometimes necessary for the less commonly used manipulative tools.
How I Use It
I typically use the Algebra tiles to model adding, subtracting, multiplying, and factoring polynomials. I also use the Algebra tiles to model solving equations. I use the tiles to introduce the concepts and let student choose whether they want to continue using them during their practice exercises. Initially, it takes students about 15 minutes to understand how to use the tiles. Some students get frustrated and feel that it is easier to do their work without the Algebra tiles. I typically find that the students who use the tiles work at a slower pace, but have higher rates of accuracy than the students who opt not to use the Algebra tiles. Most of my students choose to use the Algebra tiles for the first few weeks of the unit. I also show students how if they are ever working on a problem where they do not have access to their Algebra tiles, they can draw visual representations of them. Eventually most students master the content and no longer need the tiles. Overall, I have found that the tiles help students develop a deeper conceptual understanding of the content which leads to better achievement. A final bonus of using the virtual tools saves great deal of set-up/clean-up time as well as the storage space required to own sets of concrete manipulative tools.