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Research School Network: Making Numbers: Using Manipulatives to Teach Arithmetic by Rose Griffiths, Jenni Back and Sue Gifford A ​‘must-read’ book recommendation from Tracey Adams, Assistant Research School Director and Maths Lead at St Matthew’s


Making Numbers: Using Manipulatives to Teach Arithmetic by Rose Griffiths, Jenni Back and Sue Gifford

A ​‘must-read’ book recommendation from Tracey Adams, Assistant Research School Director and Maths Lead at St Matthew’s

Children need to develop ‘number sense’ to be able to draw on a range of strategies and knowledge about how numbers fit together. One way of helping them to understand and solve problems is by providing practical resources to model the situation.

Understanding what a manipulative and representation is, and how to use them both to effectively support children’s mathematical understanding is a thread that runs through all of the EEF’s Maths guidance reports. In the new Improving Mathematics in the Early Years and Key Stage 1 report, it is embedded in recommendation 3, which explores the evidence surrounding effective practice in using manipulatives and representations. I believe that Making Numbers – Using Manipulatives to Teach Arithmetic is an excellent book, which serves to complement those findings.

So, why is this book so good?

Well, the guidance reports suggests five key things a practitioner or teacher should consider (p21) when engaging in the use of manipulatives and representations. They are:

1. Making a link between the manipulative and the mathematical idea

2. Ensuring that the manipulative is carefully chosen

3. Encouraging children to represent problems in their own way

4. Being aware that children can be distracted by manipulatives and representations, so using them regularly to embed purpose

5. Using manipulatives and representations to encourage mathematical talk. 

Making Numbers – Using Manipulatives to Teach Arithmetic covers all of these suggestions and offers much, much more.

Firstly, it is a professional and practical handbook that was written by three experts, who have decades of experience in primary Mathematics education. The ideas within the book are based on a research and development project funded by the Nuffield Foundation and undertaken by Professor Rose Griffiths, Dr. Sue Gifford and Dr. Jenni Back, which looked at how manipulatives can support children’s acquisition of the foundations of arithmetic.

This book then goes onto explain how manipulatives and representation support this, through detailing what the research showed and how these finding can be applied to any classroom. It also shares exemplars of good practice, to give practitioners and teachers (of Early Maths) great ideas on how to use manipulatives and representations to progressively teach: numbers to 12; then 9 to 20; 15 to 50; 25 to 200; and then explore beyond that.

All of this practice is underpinned by visual examples of application and the manipulatives you will need to do this, which range from natural materials (pebbles, shells and cones) to small world play and on to counters, Cusinaire and cubes.


What I love most about this book:

The thing I love most about this book is, it is such an accessible read, yet you will come away from it with a wealth of invaluable professional knowledge on how to support children to master counting, place value and calculation. I also love it because it is the kind of book that you will constantly dip into, as it contains plenty of practical suggestions and supportive ideas for developing your use of questioning, investigations and problem solving, within any Early Years or Key Stage 1 setting.

For me, this a must read book for Early Years and Key Stage 1 practitioners, and, as I stated previously, it is a great complement to the EEF Guidance on Early Maths.

Making numbers 2020 12 03 114943

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