The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives

Feb 17, 2017

Teachers of mathematics for centuries have helped students understand mathematics using “manipulatives”– visual objects that help illustrate mathematical relationships and applications.

abacus physicalManipulatives allow students to visually examine, explore and develop concepts. I’m a huge advocate of every classroom having physical objects students to use as they learn math because I believe that physical manipulatives will lead to a conceptual understanding in mathematics.

Salad Bar Math KitI’m pretty sure that no math teacher will argue the merits of having something physical to put in a student’s hands as we help them learn! We developed our Math Salad Bar with this idea in mind so that the physical tools needed for mathematics instruction are readily available for students to use. (This would a fabulous addition to every K-5 classroom!)

Not all manipulatives must be physical, however! Virtual manipulatives can also be used in conjunction with physical objects to help students gain a concrete understanding of math concepts taught. Today, I want to share with you an awesome tool to add to your physical math tools that gives you a whole library of manipulatives at your fingertips.

Introducing the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives, from the University of Utah:

Virtual manipulatives save all kinds of headache in the classroom – no missing pieces, no storage issues, and (with today’s resource) no funding issues! Virtual manipulatives can also make your life easier, leaving more time for important things, like learning! No more searching for all the pieces of the manipulative before it can be used and trying to track down enough sets for every student. No more trying to get the pieces just right under the document camera as you demonstrate to the class. Just log into your virtual library, find what you need, and project it on the interactive whiteboard! When students have access to devices as well, a virtual library of manipulative ensures that each student has exactly what they need when they need it without wasting time.

This library includes manipulatives to support everything from geometry to conceptual thinking, and more, organized by grade level!

grades 3-5 manipulatives

Each manipulative provides instructions for basic use, as well as teacher/parent instructions for use in mathematics instruction.

Abacus NLVM

Note: The NLVM requires a Java-enabled web browser, and Chrome is not supported.

There is also a NLVM Computer App ($29.95 for a single license), which is an enhanced offline version of the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives (NLVM) for K-12 mathematics available for both Mac or Windows operating systems. It boasts an NSF-supported library of uniquely interactive virtual manipulatives for K-12 mathematics instruction. Features include: Print Image, Save Work, Configure, and Make Activity.

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