When the math manipulatives are distracting

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by Backroads, Mar 14, 2018.

  1. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    Mar 14, 2018

    One of my students is receiving some one-on-one math interventions. This generally means going back to a lot of manipulatives for her. I love math manipulatives and we use them during general classroom math a fair amount of time.

    However, it seems that having manipulatives all to herself is much too distracting. She is unable to focus on the lesson. Even if no math manipulatives are available, she is overly concerned with where they are.

    Not really seeking advice, just really not sure what to do next.
     
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  3. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Mar 14, 2018

    Lay down the ground rules for using manipulative. They are tools, not toys.
     
  4. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    Mar 14, 2018

    Seconding czacza; also, it may be helpful to limit how many manipulatives she has as much as possible so she doesn't get overwhelmed by having them to herself; if she has fewer to work with (still enough to do what's needed, but not more than that) she may be more able to view them as tools.

    Have you worked with her at all with strategies to develop her own manipulatives, such as drawing pictures to use, or making tallies? That could also help with "these are tools, not toys." If you can help her understand that they're just one strategy to use (even if they're her preferred/most effective strategy) it would help with her problem solving as well.
     
  5. MissScrimmage

    MissScrimmage Aficionado

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    I always used black checkers as math manipulatives when working 1-1 students. No sorting or playing because they are boring circles.
     
  6. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    I'm not actually disagreeing with the above--I agree there's a time for free play and a time for work. I am, however, viewing the manipulatives from a child psychology perspective. To a child, play is work. There are exceptions, but the most popular toys seem to invoke curiosity and exploration. Another reason for play is comfort; some activities just plain feel good, such as feeling the effects of inertia while swinging on a swing set. I try to sneak in some free play with manipulatives when appropriate, especially base ten blocks; (building with them reinforces the base ten pattern). [Off the subject, but that's also why I like Legos building blocks, not that they connect in base 10, but they do have a restricted connection similar to a numerical base]. I might apply free play during the morning prior to the start of class, I've allowed manipulatives to be brought home for students to play at home, and for some manipulatives, I just add a few extra minutes to practice time with the expectation that the assigned work will also be accomplished (and redirect if necessary). But again, in the above example, I agree that the student needs to learn to work with the manipulatives when it's time to work. One thing that I sometimes employ for redirection is a secret quiet signal that I can send to that particular student; that seems to work well.
     
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  7. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    Alas, with this girl, that's easier said than done. It should seem obvious, but it basically comes down to no lesson with her.
     
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  8. Kat.

    Kat. Companion

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    Mar 15, 2018

    Give her two minutes to play with them before starting the lesson - let her get that out of her system for a bit. Might help!
     
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  9. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Mar 16, 2018

    A suggestion, that might be totally incongruous without knowing the entire situation, might be make a connection to literature or writing. My thinking is that often a student who is weak in mathematics performance is stronger in reading/writing. A thought that immediately came to my mind might be to read some of the Sir Cumference books by Cindy Neuschwander. Sir Cumference and all the King's Tens might be especially appropriate if she is working on place value or similar; (from what I've read in the Google preview; I've not read that specific book of the series). Another idea might be for her to creatively develop an anthropomophic story about the manipulatives who help kids solve math problems. This could even evolve into a classroom book project or even a videoed play for future classes to view.

    Resource: Neuschwander, Cindy. Sir Cumference and All the King's Tens: A Math Adventure. Watertown, Mass.: Charlesbridge, 2009.
     
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  10. Been There

    Been There Habitué

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    Mar 16, 2018

    As a former intervention specialist, I used to work with highly distractible students every day. I made sure to keep all manipulatives out of sight (in cabinets, boxes) and used simple, same colored, same shaped objects (e.g. beans, blocks). Sometimes even connectable Unifix cubes were too distractive. Math lessons with manipulatives were most successful when I firmly modeled exactly how I expected the objects were to be used. As soon as the student began to deviate in any way (e.g. orientation, placement, movement of items), I would repeat the sequence with accompanying oral directions. Although this may not sound very creative to regular ed. teachers, this approach effectively helped my special needs students to understand new math concepts and algorithms.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2018
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  11. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

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    Mar 16, 2018

    What about plain, old, boring popsicle sticks?
     
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