Exploring and playing with manipulatives is one way that our students start to develop an understanding of shapes, counting, patterning, sorting, and other early math concepts. At the beginning of the year each year, I give my students time to just play with the manipulatives we have and I observe. You can learn so much from seeing how they build, organize, and communicate about their work. Some kids like to sort objects, some like to make patterns, and some stack things high into the sky. All of these are valuable experiences for both the student and his/her peers.
Fast forward to mid-year, when we break out the manipulatives again, this time to be used with our iPads. We work in partner centers to design with tangrams and mirror those designs on our iPads. Partners design patterns with tangrams on the table and then use the tangram objects on the iPad to mirror their designs. This helps the kids with motor planning, creativity, and communication. They make larger shapes and designs form smaller shapes. They manipulate the objects and challenge themselves. Most importantly, the students communicate with each other, describing what they made and how to mirror the image on the tangram app.
We complete a similar activity with our rubber bands and geoboards. I just love watching my kids problem solve and figure out the app without my explicit instruction. So much of kids learning to work with technology and make it applicable to their learning is allowing them time for play. When they play, they make connections and their learning can expand, allowing many students to innovate beyond our expectations.
How do your students connect and collaborate over tech use in your classroom? Do you mesh hands-on activities and tech?
Post by former kindergarten teacher turned instructional coach Kirstin McGinnis