Saturday, April 2, 2011

Dynamic Data Displays with Manipulatives

We usually think of manipulatives as cool tools for gathering or computing data but not really for displaying it. Instead, we skip the scaffolding and expect students to immediately draw a beautiful visual display.

Make more use of your manipulatives! Have students use them to build graphs and charts as a transition to later using pencil and paper to represent data.

There are lots of reasons to use your manipulatives for data display. Here are a few:

● Quick
Students feel a sense of accomplishment when they quickly build a chart rather than having to draw and color in every bar, axis, line, etc.

● Dynamic
Manipulatives can be manipulated so easily (duh)—removed, swapped, flipped, or whatever—to change the display. This opens up more learning opportunities!

● Focused on the Analysis
Kids can get so engrossed in the artistic aspect of creating a graphic display with colored pencils, crayons and paper that they miss the point. Sure, it can happen with manipulatives too. But, I’ve found that manipulatives cut down on this because they help students create displays in an instant so they can spend time analyzing the data—when the true critical thinking takes place.

● Unique Materials
Let’s face it, data has a PR problem. It makes some kids zone out or shudder (like when they hear the word fractions). Colorful, fun manipulatives aren’t the same old graph paper and are more likely to pique their interest.

Check out these examples:

Cuisenaire® Rods Bar Graph

Story Problem: Animals escaped from the zoo! Luckily, 3 elephants, 4 tigers, 2 lions and 5 zebras were already found. Help the zookeepers keep track of how many animals were found.

Color Tiles Histogram

Story Problem: Mr. Witt’s class took a big science test last week. Help him record the grades in a graph. What conclusions can he draw from the data?

Fraction Circles Pie Chart

Story Problem: Mrs. Le must tell the cafeteria manager what kind of bag lunches your class needs for the field trip. Each student can have either a cheese or peanut butter sandwich. Ask your friends what they want to eat. Then, organize and display the answers.

This blog is sponsored by Learning Resources®. I am currently an employee of Learning Resources, Inc. I am also a former teacher and parent who uses their products on a regular basis. I often purchase Learning Resources products for my family's use, but sometimes I do receive free product samples to try out. My blog honestly reflects my personal and professional opinions and experiences.