In middle school, what is the role of manipulatives? How can whole-body movement help students problem solve in new ways? How does technology support students’ problem solving, and when should the technology be introduced? Suzanne Alejandre of the Math Forum at NCTM grapples with all of these questions in
Developing Algebraic Thinking (PDF). This article describes a lesson plan about algebraic reasoning that used multiple formats to engage all students, including English language learners and students struggling with math. Alejandre describes why hand-scale manipulation, followed by technology, followed by paper-and-pencil work, and culminating with whole-body experiences worked best for her learners. Try the Traffic Jamgame yourself or with your students. Another idea is to reflect on an activity you use and think about what order your students might physically and/or virtually interact with the task, and then reflect and generalize about the experience.
Note: The Java applet accompanying Alejandre’s lesson may not run on your browser. For a newer Java applet, try the version at the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives.
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