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Mickelle Weary at FETC: “Using Virtual Manipulatives to Support the Development of Number Sense”

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If you were unlucky enough to miss Mickelle Weary’s session at FETC, you missed  a lively discussion about the value of using manipulatives in the classroom.

Mickelle is one of DreamBox Learning’s nationally board certified teachers. She was invited to speak at FETC because, together with the other teachers at DreamBox, she’s been instrumental in developing the virtual manipulatives that are at the core of our lessons in DreamBox Learning K-2 Math.

Like a good teacher, Mickelle used the time while people were coming into the session to model the use of manipulatives for getting a class settled. She used a full range of the DreamBox virtual manipulatives (our “Teacher Tools”) to present problems, rewarding correct answers with treats. The audience participation was a great way to get started—her “class” was fully engaged before she even began her talk!

Then, using the DreamBox online manipulatives, Mickelle demonstrated their power as teaching aids—how they enable a richer and more concrete understanding of math concepts. They allow students to show their work; and research shows that they’re useful in supporting students with language or learning difficulties.

Mickelle emphasized the key criteria when evaluating virtual manipulatives for use in the classroom, suggesting teachers ask:

  • Do they both teach and allow for practice?
  • Do they provide scaffolding and hints?
  • Do they give you control and flexibility in how they’re used
  • Do they allow assessment of  student strategies?
  • Do they give you the ability to report on their use?
  • Are they fun and intuitive to use?

Mickelle’s really made it a lively discussion, with questions centered around using the manipulatives. One teacher had a great suggestion for improving our open number line manipulative—she thought we should add a field that would allow a teacher to enter the problem, so students could refer to it while the class worked through the solution. (We really welcome suggestions like this one for how we can make improvements!)

Any teacher can use the free Teacher Tools

After Mickelle’s presentation we had a steady stream of session attendees coming by our booth to sign up for the DreamBox Teacher Tools, which we offer any teacher to use free in their classroom. You can get them too, by clicking here!

Download Mickelle’s presentation as a PDF

If you’d like to download a PDF of Mickelle’s presentation, click here. You’ll find the key points of her talk here, as well as the list of resources she shared for more information on virtual manipulatives.

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