2001 Conference Proceedings

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PROBLEM SOLVING WITH VIRTUAL MANIPULATIVES

Suzanne Feit
Product Development and Training Specialist
IntelliTools, Inc.
1720 Corporate Circle
Petaluma, CA 94954
Phone: 707-773-2000
Fax: 707-773-2001
Email: sfeit@intellitools.com 

Abstract

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has worked with teachers, math educators, the business community and parents to create nationally accepted standards and guidelines for the teaching mathematics. NCTM standards stress that mathematics instruction should be made more meaningful by fostering communication and access to technology as well as hands-on manipulatives.

In primary classrooms across the nation you will find tubs of pattern blocks, counting cubes, geoboards, tangrams, dice and spinners. These manipulatives give students a chance to explore and test the mathematical concepts they are learning. However, many students with disabilities are unable to take advantage of these important learning tools.

IntelliMathics provides students with disabilities the opportunity to work with on-screen manipulatives similar to those found in most classrooms. The program offers teachers a powerful tool for customizing manipulative-based activities for individual users. IntelliMathics also comes with many sample activities that are ready for immediate classroom use. Additional templates can be created by the teacher and used by all students collaboratively or on a one-to-one basis. Students can print their work and save files within their own portfolios.

Activity Templates Meet the Math Standards

The use of virtual manipulatives in IntelliMathics encourages exploration and concept building. The program comes with a series of pre-designed activity templates to expose students to a wide variety of math topics. Students using IntelliMathics have access to a collection of virtual gear such as sorting bins, Venn circles, counting boxes, geoboards and grids that can be used to solve different types of problems. They can also easily open IntelliTalk II to write about their work.

This hands-on workshop will focus on the activity templates in the IntelliMathics program as well as strategies for modifying them and creating extension activities.

Problem Solving

Below is a discussion of various on-screen manipulatives found in the IntelliMathics program and how they can be used to develop problem solving skills.

Base Ten Blocks

Base Ten blocks offers students an interactive environment in which to explore the base-ten number system. Using base-ten blocks, students can represent and compare numbers, and practice regrouping. As students use the Base Ten activities in the program, they develop a greater understanding of how the base-ten number system relates to addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

The activity on the left shows how a student can use the palettes on the top of the screen to import blocks representing the number 1200. The student can then use the ungroup feature to break down the hundred block into 9 tens and 10 ones. Using a counting box, the student can show 43 blocks and verify his or her answer. The ability to explore, as well as get feedback, allows students to comprehend the basics of base 10 blocks. Without these virtual manipulatives this simple exploration becomes more tedious and much more complex for students with disabilities.

Tangrams

Tangrams are puzzles generally known as dissections. Initially one shape, a square is cut into 7 pieces. The pieces are then rearranged to make other shapes. Tangrams provide practice in spatial orientation as students see the relationships between the different shapes, their size and orientation. The tangram activities in IntelliMathics allow students to move, flip and rotate the tangram pieces on screen. Each activity can be shared, duplicated and provides a great model for cooperative learning.

Statistics and Probability

Dice, Spinners, Coin Flipping and Grids

Early experiences with many types of data help children develop the concepts that underlie probability and statistics. IntelliMathics helps students better understand these abstract concepts by exposing them first to sorting and counting activities with popular manipulatives before introducing the use spinners and dice. More advanced students can fill in graphs and charts to analyze complex data samples.

Communication

Venn Circles, grids and direction boxes allow students to sort, define and explain their thinking patterns. Young children use many forms of communication - oral, pictorial and symbolic. When children share what they know, they both affirm their knowledge as well as open their ideas to challenges by others. IntelliMathics gives students a tool to represent their thinking even before they have the language to verbally express themselves. Once students are able to articulate their ideas, they can use IntelliTalk II to write about their observations and justify their answers.

Measurement

Geoboards, Fractions and Decimal Blocks

Students use geoboards to create geometric shapes and better understand the relationship of area and perimeter and gives them a better understanding of angles and degrees. IntelliMathics enables students to use on-screen geoboards. And added advantage is that virtual rubber bands stay in one place and are never dropped or flung across the room.

IntelliMathics also exposes students to fraction bars and decimal blocks and give students a visual way to understand the relationship between size and number symbols. On-screen fraction bars change visually as the numerator and denominator vary thus providing immediate feedback and opportunities for further exploration. Students can answer questions and use manipulatives or numbers to display their results.

Summary

This session will explain the scope and sequence of IntelliMathics. The participants will learn a wide range of curriculum adaptation strategies as they use this versatile software tool. In addition, each participant will receive a Demo CD that includes demo versions of many of the products discussed in this workshop.


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