Virtual Manipulatives: Fraction Edition

Taking regular fraction manipulatives and making them fun & engaging for students.

Happy Friday!
I know it’s been a while since my last post (February just flew right by!). I’ll just get right to the elephant in the room: fractions with manipulatives!

I am all about building conceptual understanding and using manipulatives to do so, but sometimes students get distracted using them more as toys than mathematical tools. I’ve rounded up a few of the best manipulative websites that students can use on iPads or you can use on the board (assuming you have a SMART or Promethean Board) or with a tablet or laptop. There are so many virtual manipulatives out there it can be overwhelming. My students love using the virtual manipulatives because it’s like they have an unlimited amount of them and they love any excuse to use the iPads. I love them because then they’re not tapping the fraction bars like drumsticks and dumping out unit cubes all over the room! Don’t get me wrong – when students are exploring a concept, we use hands on manipulatives, but when they are solving problems with the manipulatives I allow them to use the virtual manipulatives. I taught my students how to take a screenshot on the iPad and then mark it up with their name and class so I can upload it to their ClassDojo portfolio. (See my ClassDojo post to learn more about that!)

Toy Theater

The first website I use for fraction manipulatives is toy theater. I love this website because it has basically every math manipulative you can think of to use virtually. Some of the other manipulatives I use regularly are counters, dice, decimal bars, and pattern blocks. I plan to use the percentage strips, area and perimeter explorer, and the graph square in the future.

How do I use the fraction strips?

I first used them so show adding and subtracting fractions. Seeing as I teach fifth grade math, students generally have an idea of what a fraction is and what a unit fraction is. I pose a problem involving adding fractions with unlike denominators and give students the opportunity to explore with the manipulatives to see what they come up with. I use the virtual fraction strips the same way I use hands on fraction strips.

The one challenge with the fraction strips is that you’re limited to the denominators that are provided. The fraction strips are more for concept development of adding and subtracting unlike denominators and once students see the concept, they can then move to the procedure.

Math Learning Center

The second website I use for virtual fractions is Math Learning Center. I use this when I’m reviewing the concept of comparing fractions, showing equivalent fractions, and creating equivalent fractions with a least common denominator. There is more room for different approaches with this website. For example, you can choose the number of pieces for each fraction strips up to 100! This website also has applications for an Apple and Android tablets.

Math Learning Center also has a ton of amazing resources to check out for teaching (both tech & tech-less!) I’ve been doing some more exploring and will update in the near future!

How else can you use virtual manipulatives in your classroom? Drop a comment below!

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Alexandra

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