6 Great Virtual Manipulative Tools for the Math Classroom

When I think of the lessons we learned from remote learning, I think about how much mathematics instruction had to adapt to the changing needs of students. In other words, we couldn't do things the way we had always done them. We had to change! As we start the journey towards post-COVID, there are many lessons that we can take and infuse into our classrooms. 

Montejo-Gámez et al. (2022) proposed several best practices for teaching mathematics during remote learning, such as:
  • Connect real-world issues (i.e. COVID stats, lockdown numbers, etc.) with math concepts to take a "meaningful mathematics," approach.
  • Blend synchronous and asynchronous instruction. 
  • Emphasize modeling, student interests, and hands-on activities. 

It made me think about how important virtual manipulatives are for modeling math concepts and providing students with hands-on learning opportunities. Here are six great tools for providing students with hands-on learning opportunities for math! 

#1 - Didax

Didax has approximately 19 different pre-created virtual manipulatives for teaching math, such as ten-frames, number lines, fraction tiles, and more!

I love using the Unifix Cubes and Base-Ten Blocks for counting activities, adding, subtracting, and division. It's easy to use and can be used on any device. Simply share the link to the activity on Google Classroom or your favorite LMS.  

# 2 - Classkick 

Classkick is an awesome tool for creating your own customized virtual manipulatives for the math classroom. Although it sounds intimidating, it is very easy to create!

Classkick has some amazing pre-made Venn diagram and t-chart backgrounds that you can choose from; however, you can also add your own customized backgrounds or graphic organizers. 

Creating your own virtual manipulatives is very easy. First, you will need to have an already created PDF, JPG, or PNG file available with your objects. I would recommend using Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or Google Drawings to create your graphic. Make sure that you save it as a PDF, PNG, or JPG! 

Check out my video for more:

#3 - Toy Theatre

Toy Theatre is a great place to get virtual manipulatives and resources for a variety of subject areas geared towards the elementary classroom. If you are teaching virtually, Toy Theatre could provide a variety of math learning options to help students learn multiplication and division, alphabetical order, symmetry, and more! 

Want to see this tool in action? Check out my video

#4 - Mathigon 

Mathigon is a very helpful virtual manipulative tool that you can use to make math more engaging and exciting! It contains free tools, games, activities, and resources for all students to use! Not only can you use the activities, but you can assign assignments to your students directly from Mathigon or import your students from Google Classroom.

Here is a quick 4-minute tutorial to learn more about the Polypad feature!

#5 - National Library of Virtual Manipulatives

A great site to help our visual learners connect with Mathematical concepts is called the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives. Whether you are an elementary teacher who wants your students to understand measurement, a middle school teacher who wants your students to understand basic algebra, or a high school teacher who wants your students to understand geometry, this site is a great tool to connect your visual learners with mathematical concepts. 

I really enjoyed trying out the Algebra Basic Scales game, where you solve "X" by using a weighing scale. It's a great way for students to learn in a visual way! It is overwhelming to see how many games are available for students to learn!

#6 - Google Slides

Did you know that you could use Google Slides as a tool for virtual manipulatives? I was recently in a 4th-grade classroom, where we wanted to help students understand how to convert units of measurement like ounces to pounds and pounds to tons.

We developed the following Google Slides presentation to help students. Students are asked to guess how many ounces are in a pound, then they are asked to drag the one-ounce boxes into the one-pound container. When they are finished, they will record their answer in the answer box.

Feel free to access your own copy of this presentation here!

Want to see how it works? Check out my video!

My Spin on the Iron Chef Eduprotocol

I am a big fan of Eduprotocols. If you are not familiar with this innovative and engaging way of infusing technology and pedagogy together, then I recommend that you check out the Eduprotocols website. 

Eduprotocols are 

  • UDL-friendly and provide accessible and flexible options for ALL students!
  • Student centered and increase student engagement
  • Collaborative in nature
I have written about several different protocols in the past, such as the Getting to Know You Frayer Model and the Sketch and Tell Bumper Sticker

Iron Chef Eduprotocol

The Iron Chef Eduprotocol is a lot of fun because it provides students with an opportunity to research and collaborate on a slideshow. Students are assigned a slide and have ten minutes to complete it. They have ten minutes to add facts from a text, video, or website, as well as an image and "special" ingredient. The special ingredient is what makes this item "special" in comparison to the other items discussed in the presentation. At the end of ten minutes, students will present their findings to the class!

If you want to read more about this protocol, click here

I created a very basic version of the protocol using the three branches of the US government. Each student is assigned a slide containing a branch and a resource that I would like them to explore. Here is an example of how each slide is organized. You will notice that I included at least one hyperlink for students to explore. This is a helpful scaffold to ensure that students will meet the 10 minute time period. 

I added my own "spin" to this Eduprotocol. If students have time, they will complete the final slide, which shares one commonality, one difference, and one purpose for each branch. This portion of the activity is a great way for students to synthesize information and understand the relationships between each item. 

Would you like to see the entire Eduprotocol in action? Check out my Google Slides presentation. 

A Creative Hack to Add Visual Icons to Google Sites

Google Sites is a great tool for creating websites, but how can you make it more visually stimulating to your audience? One way is to create visual icons like you see below. 

Why Customize Your Site? 

Customizing your Google Site meets the needs of your audience. Visual icons make it easy to navigate, understand, and engage with your site. For example, perhaps you want to increase engagement with your Bitmoji or make it easier to navigate with colorful icons. 

How Does It Work?

The following hack involves using Google Sites, Google Slides, and one of my favorite free add-ons called Insert Icons for Slides   or Icons for Slides and Docs

Want to see how this works? Check out my video below:

Help Students with Self-Regulation and Manage Their Time with Time Timer

How often do you use a timer in the classroom, at home, or somewhere else? 

I use my timer all of the time to keep track of time and stay focused. For instance, I often set a time limit for myself to complete a certain task. For example, if I know that I cannot complete a project in one sitting, I might set a timer for 30 minutes. Setting the timer actually helps me work harder and stay focused!

In a similar way, timers are extremely useful for helping our students with self-regulation and managing their time. Setting timers help students stay engaged and focused! 

There are a lot of great free products out there that help with managing time; however, I recently came across Time Timer, which offers a free iOS, Android, and Apple Watch application. There is a paid Mac and Windows application too. 

Why do I like it? 

  • It's visual interface is easy to use and understand. It's visual nature makes it easy to understand how much time remains. 

  • Setting the timer can be done by touch or using controls, much like the timer on most phones. 
  • You can easily set, save, and reuse multiple alarms! For example, I love creating a 5 minute timer for email, 15 minute timer for reading, and a 30 minute timer for working on projects. I can save the timers and reuse anytime I need them! 

Unfortunately, there is currently not an option for Chromebook users. Hopefully the tool will develop something for students with Chromebooks! 

Create a Signup with Time Slots Using Choice Eliminator 2 and Google Forms

 Tis' the season for parent teacher conferences and other meetings that may require creating a Google Form with limited choices. Choice Eliminator 2 might be a great option to create a Form with limits! 

Want to learn how it works? Check out my video below:


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