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## Math Manipulative’s in Early Childhood Education

Do you have students who struggle to grasp basic mathematical concepts such as sorting, numeracy or operations? Using math manipulatives is key to helping young children learn abstract math concepts concretely. It is imperative that in the early years of learning, children are provided with hands-on mathematical manipulations to begin to explore the mathematical concepts that will underpin all future logical mathematical learning.

The basic foundations of math education are sorting, classification, and numeracy. To teach sorting and classification, teachers should use manipulatives that have similar and different qualities, for example plastic animal figurines. These may be similar in that they have the same number or legs, are the same size, have the same colors, etc. However, they can also differ in that they are different shapes or have other different attributes. Students can visually see these similarities and differences and then sort or rank them accordingly. The idea here is that you’ve given the student something concrete to figure out how they relate to each other rather than just saying. “How is a zebra the same or different from a bear?”

Along the same lines, you could ask a child to show you a “2”. They can simply roll a “2”. But do they really know that it is just a symbol and there is an actual quantity that this number symbol represents. You can teach numeracy concepts using plastic counters or household objects like kidney beans, etc. Children must have a representation of the meaning of our number symbols before they can advance in learning operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Using math manipulations in the early grades will help build those basic foundations to later enable students to think more abstractly as they progress through math concepts.

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