Psychologists have found that use of certain objects for counting have mixed results with preschoolers, particularly if those objects are rich in perceptual detail.
Concrete objects — such as toys, tiles and blocks — that students can touch and move around, called manipulatives, have been used to teach basic math skills since the 1980s. Use of manipulatives is based on the long-held belief that young children’s thinking is strictly concrete in nature, so concrete objects are assumed to help them learn math concepts.
However, new research from the University of Notre Dame suggests that not all manipulatives are equal. The types of manipulatives may make a difference in how effectively a child learns basic counting and other basic math concepts. The study will be published in the May edition of Child Development.
University of Notre Dame Associate Professor of Psychology Nicole McNeil, who researches how children think, learn and solve problems in mathematics, together with Notre Dame graduate student Lori Petersen found that use of certain objects have mixed results with preschoolers, particularly if those objects are rich in perceptual detail (bright and shiny).