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Virtual Manipulatives: Our First Fractions Manipulative, Rational Rods

One of my favorite things about working at DreamBox is collaboration. Currently, our Academic Team is four National Board Certified Teachers including myself. We plan the curriculum, and work with experts in the field to develop lessons that are academically rigorous, follow an appropriate developmental sequence and that take advantage of a rich digital environment. Just last month, we traveled to Connecticut to work with our Leading Academic Advisor Dr. Cathy Fosnot, Founding Director of Math in the City and author of the Young Mathematicians at Work series. During our trip, the five of us hammered out a solid curriculum for teaching Fractions in Grades 3-5. Throughout this process, we design unique, likely-to-be patent pending virtual manipulatives that help students develop a strong conceptual foundation.

One such virtual manipulative which we have developed is called Rational Rods. It is loosely based on measurement models, such as fraction strips, or bars, but takes that concept much further. This tool does what no classroom manipulative can do; it allows a student to take rational numbers, such as fractions, and apply a familiar context. How many of us use fraction terms when talking about money, or time? Instead of “I’ll be there in 30 minutes” we say “I’ll be there in a 1/2 hour”, or instead of “I only have 75 cents” we say “I only have 3/4″. Through Rational Rods, we have found a way to leverage our desire to reference context when tackling new math concepts, like fractions, and allow students to build a solid foundation before moving on to more abstract work.

The Rational Rods virtual manipulative is just one of many tools we are developing for Fractions in Grades 3-5. Look for more blog posts as we give you sneak peeks of our current development!