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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Virtual Math Manipulatives, Simulations, & Interactives

In my very first post, I covered my favorite web tool at the moment (and truly, it probably still is). I discussed the NLVM, or the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives. I have used this site with elementary kids more than any other. I even did my action research based on the effects of using virtual manipulatives. I thought I'd return to the topic and share a few more virtual tools that support mathematics.
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Ah, the good ol' National Library of Virtual Manipulatives (NLVM) - well organized, powerful, easy to use, and great for the SmartBoard. Basically, any manipulative you might use in the classroom, like base ten blocks, fraction strips, etc., are available to use online. It is mostly all click and drag interface. Students can practice solving problems with visual representations to assist them. It does require Java.

The NLVM now offers eNLVM. eNLVM is a place for teachers to find, save, and collaborate upon interactive math lessons. After registering, you may load up a class, find lessons to employ, and track and monitor student progress. I have just begun picking around on the eNLVM site, but already it looks very useful.
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The McGraw-Hill/Glencoe virtual manipulatives are another nice option for virtual math tools. While the site does not provide sample problems for the kids to solve, it does allow them to use a wide variety of common math tools on a blank space. This is actually pretty nice as sometimes, the NLVM simulations move a bit fast for some students - or a bit too slow. The Glencoe tools offers students the ability to use the tools how they see necessary. They even have a virtual protractor. Students can add text to their workmat and even choose predetermined backgrounds to organize their work. One more feature worth mentioning is that you can print screens right from your browser. Here is 1minute and 22 second Screenr of a third grade student using Glencoe/McGraw-Hill Tools:



Pretty cool! I could have even had him add text to explain his answer. Or, I could have had him print his screen and turn in the printed image.
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Illuminations from the NCTM is a great site offering many math resources from lesson plans to web links. And, the former NCTM president was my math professor when I was pursuing my undergrad! Here I have linked you to there virtual activities. These activities range from K - 12 and are quite good. They offer instructions and tips as the students work to solve problems. NCTM Illuminations Activities Page
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From Math Playground, you can access a number of virtual manipulatives within their Math Manipulatives Page. The site itself offers many games, challenging puzzles, and math videos. Here, I am discussing their Math Manipulatives. Math Playground may not offer the amount of tools the above sites do, but they do offer an impressive suite of tools for beginning fractions. They are also a bit more colorful than other sites' tools.
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Thinking Blocks offers quite a few virtual tutorials in which students practice math facts and use their virtual tools to assist them. It took me a while to get the hang of their simulations, but once I had it, they were quite nice. Students can model their thinking as they solve which helps them organize information. There is a self-checking feature that allows students to receive instant feedback.
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Interactivate offers many math simulations similar to the above sites. All the tutorials and activities are organized by math strands.

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Last, but not least, TechTrekers offers some interesting math simulations. I have not played around on it too much, but it seems like it is aimed at high school age students. There are stock market simulations, physics simulations and models, and many more. They also offer simulations for biology and language arts. I did find a few tutorials for grades as low as fourth.


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Well, there they are - a whole lot of virtual math tools! I hope that you find something that can be of use for our digital learners!


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