Using Manipulatives in the Foundations of Arithmetic

Manipulatives are objects that can be handled and moved. These range from everyday items such as buttons and shells, to resources like abacuses, Cuisenaire rods and Dienes blocks.

Research in teaching arithmetic to young children suggests that manipulatives can support mathematical development. However, the most effective ways to use manipulatives are not clearly understood by teachers, and so they are often under-used.

This study will explore the learning and teaching of basic arithmetic for children aged 3 to 9, focusing on the effective use of manipulatives. First, the researchers will review current and historical research and practice. Then they will develop detailed exemplars of good practice together with teachers and children. Finally, they will disseminate these exemplars and their findings.

The professional development aspects of the work will ensure the studys continuing impact on teachers, trainee teachers and teacher educators. The researchers aim to produce materials that support teachers as reflective practitioners, while also being of practical value to teachers and enhancing learning opportunities for pupils.

Project details



Dr Rose Griffiths, School of Education, University of Leicester

Dr Sue Gifford, School of Education, University of Roehampton

Dr Jenni Back

Funding programme:


Grant amount and duration:


1 September 2014 – 30 September 2016