Benefits of Using Manipulative for Hands-On Learning

(Resources List)

As I was thinking about what I knew were the benefits of hands-on learning and what I knew to be true, I wondered what others thought. Listed below are some other resources and their ideas about it. Be sure to check out the links and get additional information and ideas. 

As a former classroom teacher and current online elementary math tutor, I know that it is vital that children are engaged in their learning. I have always noticed this to be true, and have always taken time to add engaging activities to my lessons. I have always seen big results from actively engaged students. Not only are they actively discussing what they are learning and doing, but they are having fun. When children associate play and fun with what they are doing in the classroom, they typically pay more attention and most times the teacher will see positive results on their assessments. This is not a guarantee that all students will be successful, but it certainly makes the lessons more engaging. 

I will be their first person to tell you that you do not have to do a game each time, but you should try to do something that is engaging. 

Since I don’t have all of the research and I certainly don’t have all of the answers, here are a few other experts and what they think about hands-on learning and what it can do for your child as they go about their learning process. All of the websites have been listed and these are quoted texts. Please visit their full websites for all of the great information and their resources. They all offer wonderful information and insights into the idea of hands-on learning. I hope you find this information helpful. I would like to give a big shout-out to these websites for producing great information and being willing to have it out there on the web for others to read, learn, and benefit from.

Students Retain More

Hands-on learning better engages both the left and right sides of the brain. On the left side of the brain, listening and analyzing processes occur. The right side handles visual and spatial processes. By using multiple styles of learning, the brain creates better connections and can store more relevant information.

Brain scans also indicate increased activity in motor-related and sensory parts of the brain when thinking about concepts they learned through hands-on experience.

Improved attention during a long lecture, there’s nothing a student is paying attention to more than the clock. Hands-on activities get students up and moving. Students’ blood starts pumping, and their mind becomes more alert. Students have to stay attentive to listen to instructions to understand how to overcome a challenge or complete the next step.

If you asked your child if they would rather sit down and listen to a lecture on the science of hand coordination or learn how to juggle, which do you think they would prefer? Making learning fun increases a love for knowledge, which is an attribute they will appreciate the rest of their lives. Through hands-on learning, students have the opportunity to interact with what they are learning.


 Student Engagement

Let’s face it, math games are way more fun than a worksheet. Even if you use the same questions and put them on game cards instead of a worksheet, students will be way more interested in solving the math problems when they are in a game format. When kids are having fun, their engagement in learning drastically increases. When students are engaged in learning, they learn more, and what they learn sticks with them longer. Kids love games and math games can be a great motivator for even the most reluctant student.

Math Games Provide Low Risk Competition

Math games provide a low-risk form of competition for students. The best math games combine skill and luck. The highest math student will not always win when there is an aspect of luck or chance involved in the game. This can be as simple as a “lose a turn” card or spaces on the game board that direct students to move ahead or back a given number of spaces. The math games I like to use with elementary students use game boards with spaces that direct students to move ahead or back and given number of spaces, and include question cards that vary in how many spaces students move ahead if they get the question correct.

Math Games Reduce the Fear of Making Mistakes

Another benefit of using math games with elementary students is that they help reduce students’ fears of making mistakes. Many students are hesitant to participate in whole-class activities because they fear making a mistake in front of their peers. Math games provide a small group or partner setting where making a mistake doesn’t feel like such a big risk, and the consequences of making a mistake are very low since it is just a game. When students build confidence in a small group or partner setting it is often transferred to the whole group setting over time.

Build Math Talk and Communication Skills

Math games help promote math talk and communication amongst students. Students use math vocabulary and discuss solution strategies and justify their solutions as they play the game. Students who may be hesitant to speak up or ask questions in a whole class setting are much more likely to participate in math talk and communication when they are with a partner or in a small group.

Build Social Emotional Skills

Social-emotional skills are practiced and strengthened while playing math games. Skills like taking turns, being patient, cooperating, following a shared set of rules, and winning and losing respectfully are all practiced with peers when playing math games.

Reinforce and Strengthen Math Skills

Choosing a math game that focuses on a particular skill helps to reinforce and strengthen concepts students have been working on in class. Practicing skills is much more exciting in a game format than it is in a workbook or on a worksheet. Math games can be used as a practice opportunity that kids will want to participate in and even ask you for more of! Win!

Student Independence

A huge benefit of math games is that once the rules and playing procedures are learned, they can be played independently of the teacher. When students are fully engaged in a game with their peers the teacher has the opportunity to observe students or pull small groups for instruction or extra practice. By using math games that have a similar format throughout the year you will be able to provide the rules and instructions the first time the game is played, instead of before every new game that is played, building student independence with each game. The math games I like to use all follow the same setup, rules, and format, but the question cards for each game focus on a different skill. Students can independently play the games without having to ask questions about how to play.

Learning From and Teaching Peers

Math games allow students to learn from their peers. There is something special about students teaching and coaching each other and explaining their thinking to each other that provides huge learning benefits. Students can sometimes explain how to solve a problem in a way that is different than the student has heard before, and might be the explanation that makes the concept stick!

Strategic Thinking and Problem Solving Skills

Math games help build strategic thinking and problem-solving skills. Students learn to solve problems together, think strategically about what moves to make, and how to be successful in playing the game. Throughout a math game, students make a lot of strategic decisions as they problem solve and plan their next move.

Math Games Build a Love of Math

Games help foster excitement about math and build a love of math in our students. Games are fun and engaging for students. The greatest learning happens when our students are having fun and are engaged in the learning process. Elementary students need to see that math is more than a series of problems in a workbook. Allowing them to get excited about math through games will help them to build a lifelong love of math.

Reaches a Different Learning Style

Math, like all subjects, can be hard to understand if you have a certain learning style. Bringing in math manipulatives reaches a few different learning styles. When you are using math manipulatives, you’re getting some visual understanding. In addition, you’re getting hands-on work as well. Because students get these new perspectives, they will have a better chance to understand. By adding in the different learning styles into your instruction, you are helping those who don’t understand and deepening the understanding for several other students as well.

Visualizes Problem Solving

Because math is all about solving problems and using various methods to get there, manipulatives can be a game changer. Students often struggle to problem solve, especially if it is a difficult task. Math manipulatives allow you to put ideas together and take them apart over and over again. This helps students see all the different ways a problem can be solved as well as what doesn’t work.  

Student Confidence Grows

In the years before teachers regularly used manipulatives, students were left waiting to hear from an adult if their math work was correct or incorrect. Now with items on a child’s desk they can physically confirm their reasoning with the evidence in front of them. This can give students a powerful feeling that they are in control of their learning.

Ask your child about math manipulatives s/he uses in class. I think you will be surprised to see how far your child’s learning can come using these items under the guidance of our teachers. Here are a few resources about further benefits that manipulatives create in the classroom.

Chatgpt open AI results:

When using hands-on math activities, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  1. Plan ahead: Make sure you have all the necessary materials and a clear understanding of the activity before presenting it to your students.
  2. Clearly communicate instructions: Take the time to explain the activity clearly and demonstrate it if possible. Ensure that students understand what is expected of them before they begin.
  3. Allow for exploration: Encourage students to explore and experiment with the materials. This will allow them to develop problem-solving skills and learn through trial and error.
  4. Provide opportunities for collaboration: Hands-on activities can be an excellent way to foster collaboration and teamwork. Consider grouping students together or encouraging them to work together to complete the activity.
  5. Make connections to real-life situations: Help students understand how the math concepts they are learning apply to real-life situations. This can make the learning more meaningful and relevant to them.
  6. Encourage reflection: After the activity, provide time for students to reflect on what they learned and how they approached the problem. This can help them develop metacognitive skills and deepen their understanding of the math concepts.
  7. Differentiate instruction: Consider the needs and abilities of your students and adjust the activity accordingly. Provide additional support or challenge as needed.

By following these best practices, you can create a meaningful and engaging learning experience for your students through hands-on math activities.

For more information about Tutoring services for your child, be sure to visit and inquire how Sheryl can help support your child on their learning journey.

Published by Tutoring with Sheryl

I have 32 years of experience teaching in public schools in Nebraska. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Nebraska-Lincon. I hold a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Doane University. I have 2 Google for Education Certifications. I have been tutoring online for 1 year. I have worked with countless students of all ages to support their education. I also support teachers with planning and management in their classrooms.

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