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School Science and Mathematics






School Science and Mathematics Association

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This research study examines the instructional practices of 10 middle grades teachers related to their use of manipulatives in teaching mathematics and their control of mathematics tools during instruction. Through 40 observations of teaching, 30 interviews, and an examination of 67 written documents (including teachers' plans and records), profiles were developed that describe how teachers used and controlled manipulatives during instruction. Results showed that teachers used a variety of manipulatives and other mathematics tools over the course of the year-long study. Teachers reported using a mathematics tool (manipulative, calculator, or measuring device) in 70% of their lessons, and this self-report was verified by observations in which teachers used mathematics tools in 68% of their lessons. During a 3- to 4-month period of "free access," in which students had some measure of control in their selection and use of the mathematics tools, the students used manipulatives spontaneously and selectively. During free access, teachers exhibited various behaviors, including posting lists of items on containers, assigning group leaders to manage tools, and negotiating the control of the mathematics tools during instruction.


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