J. Geldenhuys, K. Dell, D. Levack

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (SOUTH AFRICA)
When children see, hear, taste, touch or smell objects, they experience physical, perceptual qualities that enable them to form mental representations of the objects. Piaget’s theory argues that since children construct mathematical knowledge through their thinking, manipulatives should play a role in encouraging children to think and solve problems. A manipulative is any of various objects designed to be moved or arranged by hand as a means of developing motor skills or understanding abstractions. Piaget emphasized that learners should be given the opportunity to experimentally and actively manipulate objects – an experience which is likely to enhance the learner’s grasp of the transformation of objects and their associated relations. This is significantly applicable to the South African context because the Revised National Curriculum Statement focuses on hands-on activity-based learning.

The research paradigm for this investigation was guided by a social construction discourse. Social construction theory suggests that our understanding the world in which we live is constructed through interaction with others and the world in which we live.

This poster will elucidate the research process implemented to investigate the role that manipulatives play in the teaching and learning of Mathematics. The objective of this research was to investigate whether learners’ performance in Mathematics can be enhanced by the use of manipulatives.

Mixed method research was applied using both the quantitative and the qualitative research designs. The sample consisted of 60 Grade 6 learners from two different schools in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. School A was a private school with learners from predominant upper class families, while School B was a public school catering mainly for a middle class society. The quantitative phase of the project consisted of experimental research. In each school an experimental and control group were used. The experimental groups were exposed to manipilatives during teaching and learning of new content, but the control group not. Thereafter, all groups wrote the same test. The data were quantitatively analysed by means of computer software using descriptive statistics. For the qualitative part of the research the participants filled out a questionnaire on their experiences in using manipulatives during the learning process. This data were analysed for similarities and differences to see whether any significant themes emerged. A review of relevant literature was also undertaken to place the research in context and to recontextualize findings.

The necessary ethical measures were applied. Trustworthiness was obtained by incorporating triangulation to ensure validity and reliability.

The quantitative results showed that the use of concrete manipulatives provided opportunities for the promotion of greater understanding, while the qualitative findings showed that the learners enjoyed the lessons with manipulatives more and found the learning to be more meaningful. The poster will provide a summary of all the results, as well as recommendations based on the findings.