At Repton Dubai, we encourage the children to take the lead in their learning. In Maths lessons, rather than ask ‘what is the answer?’, we instead ask, ‘how do you know that is the answer?’ and ‘can you prove it?’. Proving and justifying an answer requires a much deeper understanding of the concept and a much wider explanation; it requires the children to use their reasoning skills. To aid this, we need to draw upon an important element from our toolkits – manipulatives.

Manipulatives provide our children with a way of constructing physical, concrete models of abstract Maths ideas, allowing a deeper understanding through exploration and investigation. For us as teachers, they are a vital tool when illustrating concepts. Manipulatives include resources such as Dienes blocks, place value counters, cubes, numicon, Cuisenaire rods, number lines or fractions strips, to name just a few. Dienes blocks allow children to explore and understand the value of numbers, particularly the powers of ten. Once understood, this concept can be applied to multiplying and dividing by 10, 100 and 1000, and to a real-life context – converting measures. Place value counters enable a deeper understanding of exchanging and regrouping in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Cuisenaire rods and fraction strips are the foundations of understanding fractions and provide the base for developing an understanding of the bar model method. Numicon allows the children to discover connections and relationships between numbers. In short, manipulatives allow children to discover Maths for themselves.

Now a core part of Maths lessons across the school from EYFS through to Year 6 is incorporating the use of manipulatives into learning, which means our lessons are becoming more and more hands-on and practical. Through this, the children are also making connections and links between concepts themselves, creating a web of Mathematical knowledge in their minds. These connections can then extend beyond the subject of Maths, into the realms of Science, Technology, Engineering and Computing.

Through the use of manipulatives, we are providing our children with the means to discover the world for themselves, make sense of it, and apply their knowledge far and wide. As the saying goes, ‘Mighty oaks from little acorns grow’ – it truly is exciting to witness the beginning of a journey of discovery here at Repton.

Victoria Willars
Head of Maths – Repton Dubai