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NYC Helpline: How To: Teach Math

Manipulative Dos and Don’ts: Troubleshooting Some Predictable Problem
Sarah Picard

Although I did several things at the beginning of the year to set up my classroom for independence in the math workshop, we (the students and I) still ran into some problems with the manipulatives.

One thing that helped all of us was a list of “Dos and Don’ts for Math Tools.” You may have some unique situations in your classroom, but by the end of the first week, my students and I always created a list and posted it in the math area. Each year the list changed a bit based on the students, but it often contained some of the items below.

Manipultive Dos:
DO…

  • Take tools from the shelves when you need them to help you solve a probelm.
  • Return tools to the shelves where you got them when you are finished.
  • Share tools with the other children sitting near you.
  • Give yourself enough space to work with your tools.

Manipulative Don’ts:
DON’T…

  • Put tools in your mouth.
  • Put tools where little brothers or sisters could put them in their mouth.
  • Hide the tools (in your shoes, in closets, under shelves, etc).
  • Throw the tools.
  • Grab at the tool baskets. There are plenty of tools for everyone.

Troubleshooting some organizational problems can often be accomplished by assigning one or two children as math center helpers. Each day right after they unpack in the morning, the assignees visit the math center and make sure all the tools are in the correct baskets and all the baskets are on the correct shelves.

I’ve found these dos and don’ts to be an effective tool for managing manipulatives in my classroom. I hope you find them useful as well.

 

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