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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Math Manipulative Stations: Collaboration and Problem Solving with Fractions

Give them collaborative "play time"
Want to increase student engagement and cultivate a culture of collaborative learning in your INTERMEDIATE  classroom? Math stations are one way to differentiate the process and alter the learning environment. By providing your students with a different model for learning - through the use of manipulatives and open questions - you will allow them to explore, collaborate and take risks in their learning. Here’s what you can do:

  • Divide your class into groups of 4-5 students. “Tiered” Groups that include students who are proficient, struggle and anywhere in between, are a great way to scaffold the learning for students of all abilities. This is also a great way to provide leadership opportunities for some of your stronger math students.

  • Fractions are a great starting point for your students to explore math stations and improve their conceptual understanding of the big ideas – they lend themselves very well to the use of many different manipulatives.
  • Create 4-5 math stations that each have a different manipulative (e.g., pattern blocks, tangrams, fraction circles, relational rods).
*TECHNOLOGY CONNECTION* If you have access to some computers, try creating a math station that uses online math games as the activity. Just do an online search for “fraction games” and choose 3-4 that have a range of difficulty levels. This is also a great way to support your struggling students with a “break” from conventional math questions.
  • Create a schedule that outlines when each student group will be at each station. Use 15-20 minutes as a guide for time. These stations could represent a week’s worth of math to cycle all groups through 4-5 stations.
  • When students arrive at their assigned station to begin, provide 5 minutes (timed) as a chance to build and “play” with the manipulates there. Challenge your students to build their most creative structure as a group collaboration. Tell them you will photograph and display the most interesting ones.
  • Each group should have activities to be completed using the manipulatives provided. Check out the MATHGAINS website for terrific open questions with a variety of manipulatives to build confidence and risk-taking. Marian Small’s website and books are another great resource for these types of questions.
  • Emphasize the importance of students talking about the questions, planning how to solve them and supporting each other when they get stuck.
  • Each math station lesson should end with a 15 minute consolidation time. Invite a student from each group to the front to explain the process of HOW their group solved one of the questions from their math station.
A document camera is a great way to visually show the class the question and work done to solve a problem. It also provides the student who is communicating their learning with a prompt to structure their sharing.
Have you used math stations before in your intermediate classroom? How did it go? What surprised you about the student learning?

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