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Virtual Manipulatives in an Inquiry-Based Curriculum


Virtual Manipulatives in an Inquiry-Based Curriculum


Final Project

Inquiry Institute 2009 – Bryn Mawr College



Ed Bujak



#1 - intro (basically this document)  (4:39 minutes) <-- CLICK HERE (rather than read this document)

#2 - demos/models (4:41 minutes)

#3 - demo/model (continued) (4:53 minutes) - let the students loose to play, collect data, resolve conflicts, loop, present, socialize



Resources (just google “virtual manipulatives”):

See summary at end.



The Good and the not so good


Manipulatives (all kinds)


            Address all Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic-Tactile (VAKT) teaching methods

                        Provides opportunities for optional or differentiated instruction (space)

No real mistakes (conflict, but less frustration)

Safe place to play

Open process à develop strategies, manipulate, observe, collect data, loop

                        Multiple representations (PA Standards: GANV - Graphical, Analytic,

Numeric, Verbal)



Accelerate learning in things that matter high level, abstractions, synthesis, transference)



                        Sometimes expensive

                        Sometimes unsafe

                        Often get lost

Sometimes huge, hard to store, limited shelf life



Virtual manipulatives (subset of above)


                        Less likely to get lost or broken



                        Always available (24/7) – no permissions needed – free exploration!

Visualization and sound capabilities are astounding –allowing for more inquiry, more observations, more loops



Usually require some type of run-time player or environment (Java, Flash, some other layer) à needs IT support to install

                        Possibly blocked by severe mechanism in school environments



How manipulative is the manipulative?

            More controls, more variation à more inquiry-based

            Student can create their own à more inquiry-based

            Adaptive technologies



Students must present – sometimes individually and sometimes in a group of 2

Each marking period a team of 2 students must present an original manipulative (cross-curricular activities are strongly encouraged)

Part of students archive portfolio

Digital content creation

Socialization – community of learners (multiple stories)

Emotional support – encourage each other

Meta-cognition – students need to reflect on their work and even have other students new to the topic comment on his/her/their work



VM brief intro in a flash:


National Library of Virtual Manipulatives – NLVM -

Gizmos -

MathForum -

Mathematica – installed software  -

Mathematica Demonstrations -

Mathematica Wolfram Alpha -




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