What role do manipulative materials play in making sense of these mathematical ideas? Do they support or hinder students' mathematical understanding of conservation of area?
Using manipulatives are absolutely effective, and have a significant impact on measurement and other mathematical ideas making sense to children. According to the constructivist school of thought and the work of Jean Piaget, students build understanding of abstract concepts through using manipulatives to solve problems. The teacher’s job is to skillfully frame tasks with specific expected outcomes. One of the drawbacks in using manipulatives is dependency from excessive use, especially when children have not linked the process with big ideas and patterns. Children may also become too dependent on them, and start to believe they can only solve problems by using the manipulatives. The teacher makes sure that students understand that the manipulatives are their learning tools and not toys to entertain them even though they are fun to use.
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