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 explored the learning and teaching of basic arithmetic for children aged 3 to 9, focusing on the effective use of manipulatives. The researchers reviewed current and historical research and practice. They then developed detailed exemplars of good practice together with teachers and children. The culmination of this work is an excellent handbook for teachers that is based upon the latest evidence from research.

Making Numbers shares examples of good practice in the use of manipulatives to help children develop mastery of counting, place value and calculation. The book is supported by a series of innovative animations and a short booklet that illustrate approaches to exploring numbers in a creative way.

These resources seek to support teachers as reflective practitioners, while also being of practical value to teachers and enhancing learning opportunities for pupils.