Third-graders learn about fractions using virtual manipulative: A classroom study

With recent advances in computer technology, it is no surprise that the manipulation of objects in math classrooms now includes the manipulation of objects on the computer screen. These objects, referred to as virtual manipulatives, are essentially replicas of physical manipulatives placed on the World Wide Web in the form of computer applets with additional advantageous features. The purpose of this project was to explore the effects of using several virtual manipulative computer applets for instruction during a fraction unit in a third-grade classroom. The participants in this study were 19 third-grade students. During a two-week unit on fractions, students interacted with several virtual manipulative applets in a computer lab. Data sources in the project included a pre and posttest of students' conceptual knowledge, a pre and posttest of students' procedural computation skills, student interviews, and a student attitudes survey. The results indicated a statistically significant improvement in students' posttest scores on a test of conceptual knowledge, and a significant relationship between students' scores on the posttests of conceptual knowledge and procedural knowledge. Student interviews and attitude surveys indicated that the virtual manipulatives (1) helped students in this class learn more about fractions by providing immediate and specific feedback, (2) were easier and faster to use than paper-and-pencil methods, and (3) enhanced students' enjoyment while learning mathematics.

Reimer, K., & Moyer, P.
Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, Vol. 24 (1), 5-25.
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Content Area: 
Grade Level: 
early elementary
IDEA Disability Category: 
emotional disturbance
major-other health impairment
specific learning disability
speech or language impairment
Instructional Support: 
opportunities to learn concepts