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"Virtual Manipulatives" And Interactive Math And Science


Teachers often use manipulatives—boxes, shapes, figures and games—which students can handle during in-class activities to explain math and science concepts. A colleague of mine forwarded me a link to a site that offers teachers interactive math and science resources and Web-based "virtual manipulatives," which seeks to help educators build student understanding.


In addition to housing interactive tests and features that allow students to manipulate shapes, the site offers general suggestions on teaching for math and science educators. The entries include tips on how teachers can use popular games to explain math ("The Math in Video Games") and the possible uses of technology ("Using Google Earth in Science and Math").

For the math and science teachers out there: How useful do you find Web-based resources in your classes? How often do you get new ideas from these sorts of sites? Do you have the time—not to mention the computer resources—to have your students make use of Web resources like this one?


I was excited when my twitter turned up this topic: I use the web extensively for science (Chemistry) work with my 10-12 grade students. I was disappointed to see yet again an "interactive periodic table". It seems to be one of the few topics in Chemistry that gets tagged/created as being an 'interactive science resource'.

We need more interactives in chemistry that deal with ideas that are difficult to visualize in the 'real world'. Interactives that promote understanding of bonding, loss or gain of electrons, how elements combine into compounds, what happens when kinetic energy changes...well, I could go on and on.

I find the interactives that I can and have a reasonable list of things to use with my students, but I would have to say a lot of what I see out there is online multiple-choice practice sites. They have their place but they do NOT allow for much in the way of manipulation or deeper understanding.

Google SketchUp is a great tool for teaching math. It was created as an architectural design tool, but some teachers have discovered it as a fun way to teach geometric concepts such as tesselations, fractals, polyhedra.

For an example of what you can do with SketchUp and math, see http://www.3dvinci.net/teacherguide/ and click the math lessons. This teacher guide was put together to show how SketchUp can be used for a variety of grade levels and subjects.

3DVinci also has a book series called GeomeTricks, which outlines some fun geometric projects for students.

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