Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Patricia Moyer-Packenham


This study examined the influence of different virtual manipulative types on the nature of students’ techno-mathematical discourse (TMD) when working with a partner. The research used a concurrent mixed-methods design using identical samples to compare and synthesize the results. For this study, six fifth-grade students participated in nine sessions of mathematics instruction using virtual manipulatives. The study compared three virtual manipulative types: combined (multiple representations, open environment), pictorial (single visual representation, open environment), and tutorial (multiple representations, structured environment). Students’ levels of discourse in generalization, justification, and collaboration were measured as well as students’ use of physical and computer gestures while working with each virtual manipulative type. One-way ANOVAs indicated statistically significant differences in quality of student discourse when using the different virtual manipulative types. When working with combined virtual manipulatives, students’ discussions reflected consistently higher levels of discourse than when working with pictorial or tutorial virtual manipulatives. When working with tutorial and pictorial virtual manipulatives, students’ discussions reflected consistently lower levels of discourse. However, pictorial virtual manipulatives were associated with the largest amount of discussion among student pairs and the highest frequency of gesture use. The results of this study suggest that in order to encourage meaningful TMD, teachers should choose technology tools (e.g., virtual manipulatives) that combine multiple representations (i.e., combined virtual manipulative type) and provide the opportunity to engage in cognitively demanding tasks. The results of this study indicate that tutorial virtual manipulatives did not encourage meaningful mathematical discourse with these student pairs. This means that the tutorial virtual manipulative type may be better suited for the practice of mathematics concepts or for individual learning than for partner work. The patterns and trends identified in this study contribute to the existing literature on the complex issues that surround mathematical discourse and the use of technology in the classroom.



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