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  • Elise L.

Some Benefits of Virtual Manipulatives

There are many benefits when virtual manipulatives are added to lesson plans in a meaningful way. They have been shown to have a positive impact on achievement and engagement in mathematics (Jimenez & Besaw, 2020) and can help to provide a variety of experiences for students, creating opportunities for new types of activities and explorations that would not be possible with physical manipulatives alone (Rosen & Hoffman, 2009).

These new experiences can allow “students to explore ideas flexibly, modeling the fluidity of the brain’s activity and human thinking in ways that cannot be done in a physical space” (Moyer-Packenham et al., 2008, p. 215). One way that virtual manipulatives help to accomplish this is through the ability to present several different representations in a single environment that can be controlled by the student (Moyer-Packenham et al., 2008). If these activities are well developed they can be used to “amplify the range of mathematical representations available, supporting the development of young learners’ understandings of mathematical concepts and processes” (Rosen & Hoffman, 2009, p. 32).

In addition to providing new contexts for students to make connections, virtual manipulatives can provide opportunities for students to communicate about mathematics. Activities involving virtual manipulatives can encourage students to collaborate as they solve problems, promoting conversation when discussing insights which are then tested using the program (Rosen & Hoffman, 2009). This cycle of engaging in a planned activity and receiving periodic feedback promotes a “self-correcting process helps them make sense of the activity” (Rosen & Hoffman, 2009, p. 29) and the content that they are working with.


Jimenez, B. A., & Besaw, J. (2020). Building early numeracy through virtual manipulatives for

students with intellectual disability and autism. Education and Training in Autism and

Developmental Disabilities, 55(1), 28–44.

Moyer-Packenham, P., Baker, J., Westenskow, A., Anderson, K., Shumway, J., Rodzon, K., &

Jordan, K. (2013). A study comparing virtual manipulatives with other instructional

treatments in third and fourth grade classrooms. Journal of Education, 193(2), 25–39.

Moyer-Packenham, P., Salkind, G., & Bolyard, J. J. (2008). Virtual manipulatives used by K-8

teachers for mathematics instruction: Considering mathematical, cognitive, and

pedagogical fidelity. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education (CITE

Journal), 8(3), 202–218.

Rosen D., & Hoffman J. (2009). Integrating concrete and virtual manipulatives in early

childhood mathematics. YC Young Children, 64(3), 26–33.


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