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Saturday, August 9, 2014

You Oughta Know About The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives

I am excited to be linking but today with Mrs. McClain for the You Oughta Know Blog Hop
I want to share with you a free online resource that I use over and over again with students in all grades.  It is the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives which is maintained by Utah State University.

The manipulatives are organized by strand (Number & Operations, Algebra, Geometry, Measurement, and Data Analysis & Probability) as well as by grade cluster (Pre K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12).  If you need a manipulative you can probably find it there!  I have used many different manipulatives for specific classroom purposes as well as letting students explore a particular category.  You must have Java installed on your computer to run the manipulatives.  If you don't have Java, it is a free download and easy to install! 

Today I will share with you a few of my favorites!

Fractions- Comparing

You can find this one under number and operations grades 3-5.  It is a fun tool to use on a projector or SMART board as a demonstration tool or as a student learning center or partner game.  
It starts by showing two fractions.  The number of pieces can be changed on each until they are both equal pieces and the same size.   
Once the pictures have equal pieces of the same size, you can rename the fraction so they have the same denominator. 

Once you click on check and have the right answer, you plot your fractions on a number line.  

Next you have to find a fraction between your two fractions.  I love this for thinking about fraction density!  Density is often something teachers and math books skip or do not emphasis but it is super important! 

Click check and if you are right it will ask you to find another fraction between your two fractions.  This will go on and on until you click new fractions.  
I use this virtual manipulative in grades 3-5.  I ALWAYS use this with my fourth graders!

Number Line Bars- Fractions

This is my absolute favorite of all the virtual manipulatives.  When I found this about 6 years ago, it completely changed the way I teach fraction division and helped my students understand this challenging idea so much better!  I even did an action research project on this topic for my master's thesis and the results of using this manipulative to teach fraction division were statistically significant.  

I have created a series of worksheets to go along with this virtual manipulative that I will be sharing on my blog in the coming weeks so make sure you are following my blog or have liked me on Facebook so you will be the first to know when these get posted!

Before finding this virtual manipulative, I did not have a good way to teach fraction division in a hands on way.  Now I have kids use this to help them notice patterns and give them a visual image for fraction division. 

Here is how a student could do a problem like 1 and 2/3 divided by 4/5.
Start by making a bar that is 1 and 2/3 long.  You must enter it as an improper fraction

We need to figure out how many 4/5 bars fit into the 5/3 bars.  We can easily put 2 on top but need to find what part of a third bar will fit. 

By placing a third bar on top and changing the step size we can see that 1/12 of the final bar fits over the 5/3 one.  The answer is 2 and 1/12
Again... these bars are super powerful and the example above is one students would do after being led through a series of problems specifically designed for them to notice some patterns that will lead them to constructing an algorithm.  Stay tuned for a more detailed post on this!

I have used this manipulative mostly in sixth grade.  However because the Common Core has placed some ideas about fraction division into grade 5, I will probably be using it in grade 5 as well. 


I have written about many ways I use tangrams in the classroom but neglected to mention this one in that post!  This is a fun thing for kids to work on spacial reasoning and I always love working with tangrams because there will be a student or two who really excel at this that sometimes don't excel at number and operations.  

You can choose from any of the shapes at the bottom of the screen and try to fit the 7 tangram pieces onto it.  You can change the color of the pieces, flip them by pressing the red arrow and turn them by dragging on the corner. 

If a shape is to challenging, you can click on hint and it will draw in a line that will really help with placing the next piece.  
The National Library of Virtual Maniplatives is really something all teachers should know about.  If the above three manipulatives don't appeal to you there are still many others to choose from.  My estimate is that there are around 80!

Head over to NLVM now to see what they have!

Have you used the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives?  Which ones are your favorites?


  1. I have used this site a bunch...but had sort of forgotten about it. Thank you for reminding me of this great site. Teaching Science With Lynda

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your resources! Your blog is absolutely adorable, by the way! So very cute!!!!
    Best wishes!
    Jen :)