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## CalStateStudyOnManipulatives

Posted on May 18, 2005 @ 22:22 by CarolynJohnston

Part 3 in a mini-series on a review of quality math ed research articles.

Part 1: CalStateStudyIntro

Part 2: CalStateStudyOfGroupLearning

Another surprising fact -- about math manipulatives -- comes out of the Cal State Study.

There were only four studies of manipulative use that were of high enough quality to make the Cal State cut. That really isn't enough to draw a conclusion from, especially given the studies' haphazard coverage of the range of instructional possibilities. Still, there are enough results that they suggest a pattern. See if you can detect it ('benefit' implies that kids did significantly better on normalized tests of math achievement than control groups did).

Kindergarten kids learning counting: no benefit conferred by including manipulatives.

Third graders learning multiplication: two different studies show no benefit to the use of manipulatives before teaching formal computation.

Fifth and seventh graders learning fractions: kids benefit from a fractions game played with or without other manipulatives and pictorial representations.

Elementary schoolers using fraction/ratio manipulatives with fraction/ratio instruction: no benefit.

Seventh graders using fraction/ratio manipulatives with fraction/ratio instruction: benefit.

I love what these results suggest because it is so unexpected and counterintuitive. Most of us think of manipulatives as a stepping-stone from the concrete to the abstract, as something to be used only by the very young when they are first introduced to a topic.

But these results suggest that older kids get more benefit out of manipulatives. In a way, now that I think about it, it makes sense; their relative maturity means kids have a conceptual 'hook' on which to hang the insights that the manipulatives give them. They already have half a clue, and that helps them get the point of the manipulatives.

Perhaps to a younger kid, less able to generalize from the concrete to the abstract, the manipulatives are simply toys.

This is all the evidence I need to get the fraction manipulatives out for my soon-to-be sixth grader.

For more information on math manipulatives, see our favorite math supplements for kids and FractionManipulatives

Also see:
EdResearch
CalBoardOfEdStudyPart2
FractionManipulatives