# Blog

Have you ever wondered why so many children hate mathematics? Why do they find it boring, difficult, and irrelevant to their lives? Why do they struggle to understand and apply mathematical concepts and skills? If you are a parent, a teacher, or a student who cares about mathematics education, you might want to read this blog post.

In this blog post, I will explain how mathematics teaching in today’s schools is failing to meet the needs and interests of the children, and how mathematics laboratory can offer a better alternative. I will also share some examples of how mathematics laboratory works in practice and what are its benefits for the children and the society.

## The Problem with Mathematics Teaching in Today’s Schools

Mathematics teaching in today’s schools is largely based on textbooks, worksheets, and tests. It focuses on the manipulation of symbols, the memorization of rules and formulas, and the repetition of procedures. It does not connect mathematics to the real world of the child, nor does it foster creativity, curiosity, and critical thinking.

According to a survey by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), only 37% of the students in grades 4-12 said they liked mathematics, and only 29% said they thought mathematics was important for their future. The survey also found that the students’ interest and confidence in mathematics declined as they moved up the grades.

The reasons for the students’ negative attitudes towards mathematics are manifold. Some of them are:

- Mathematics is taught in a way that does not match the children’s learning styles and preferences. Some children learn better by seeing, some by hearing, some by doing, and some by a combination of these modes. However, most mathematics classrooms rely on verbal and written instruction, which does not cater to the diverse needs of the learners.

- Mathematics is taught in a way that does not reflect the nature and beauty of mathematics. Mathematics is not just a collection of facts and procedures, but a creative and dynamic discipline that explores patterns, relations, and structures. Mathematics is also a human endeavor that has a rich history and culture, and that has applications and implications in various fields and domains.

- Mathematics is taught in a way that does not motivate and challenge the children. Many children find mathematics boring, because they do not see the purpose and relevance of what they are learning. They also find mathematics frustrating, because they do not understand the concepts and skills that they are expected to master. They also find mathematics stressful, because they are constantly evaluated and compared based on their performance.

## The Solution: Mathematics Laboratory

What if there was a way to make mathematics teaching more fun, meaningful, and effective? What if there was a way to make children love mathematics and excel at it? What if there was a way to make mathematics a fulfilling and empowering experience for the children and the society?

### That is where mathematics laboratory comes in.

Mathematics laboratory is a place, a process, and a procedure for teaching and learning mathematics. It is a place where children have access to a variety of manipulative materials, such as blocks, tiles, rods, beads, cards, dice, etc. It is a process where children use these materials to perform mathematical experiments, play mathematical games, solve mathematical puzzles, and engage in other activities. It is a procedure where children discover and understand mathematical concepts and skills through their active involvement and inquiry.

Mathematics laboratory has several advantages over the traditional mathematics teaching. Some of them are:

- Mathematics laboratory allows children to learn mathematics by doing, rather than by listening or reading. This way, they can develop their physical, sensory, and motor skills, as well as their cognitive and affective skills. They can also learn at their own pace and level, and according to their own interests and needs.

- Mathematics laboratory allows children to experience mathematics in a concrete and contextual way, rather than in an abstract and isolated way. This way, they can bridge the gap between the real and the abstract world, and see the connections and applications of mathematics in various situations and problems. They can also appreciate the beauty and elegance of mathematics, and its role and value in the human culture and civilization.

- Mathematics laboratory allows children to explore mathematics in a creative and collaborative way, rather than in a passive and individual way. This way, they can generate their own ideas and questions, and test their own hypotheses and conjectures. They can also share their findings and opinions with their peers and teachers, and learn from each other’s perspectives and experiences.

## How Manipulative Materials Enhance Mathematics Learning

In the first part of this blog post, I explained how mathematics teaching in today’s schools is failing to meet the needs and interests of the children, and how mathematics laboratory can offer a better alternative. In this part, I will focus on one of the key features of mathematics laboratory: the use of manipulative materials.

Manipulative materials are objects or things that the pupils can feel, touch, handle, and move. They can be real objects that have social application in our everyday affairs, such as coins, clocks, rulers, etc. Or they can be objects that are used to represent an idea, such as blocks, tiles, rods, beads, cards, dice, etc.

Manipulative materials appeal to several senses and are characterized by a physical involvement of pupils in an active learning situation. They are not just teaching aids or instructional materials, but tools for problem solving. When a child has an aid to solve a problem that is always available in the mathematics laboratory, his or her self-confidence is increased, because he or she does not need to depend on the fallibility of his or her memory.

Manipulative materials are not an end in themselves, but a means of learning important mathematical processes, principles, and skills. They help the children to discover and understand mathematical concepts through their own exploration and inquiry. They also help the children to apply and communicate their mathematical knowledge in various contexts and situations.

The use of manipulative materials in mathematics laboratory has many benefits for the children and the society. Some of the most important and unique benefits are:

**Active Learning: **Manipulative materials encourage active learning by involving students directly in the learning process. Rather than passive listening or note-taking, students engage with mathematical concepts through experimentation and problem-solving. This hands-on approach fosters a deeper understanding of the subject matter. For example, when students use blocks to build different shapes, they learn about geometry, symmetry, and measurement in a fun and interactive way.

**Conceptual Understanding:** Manipulative materials help students gain a more profound conceptual understanding of mathematical concepts. They can visualize and experience abstract mathematical ideas in concrete ways, making the learning process more meaningful. For example, when students use rods to represent fractions, they can see and compare the relative sizes of different fractions, and understand how they can be added, subtracted, multiplied, or divided.

**Application of Knowledge:** Manipulative materials enable students to apply their mathematical knowledge in real-life situations. They can solve practical problems, which enhances their problem-solving skills and the relevance of mathematics in everyday life. For example, when students use coins to practice counting, adding, and subtracting money, they can relate their mathematical skills to their personal and social affairs, such as shopping, saving, and budgeting.

**Collaborative Learning:** Manipulative materials facilitate collaborative learning. Students can work together to solve problems, discuss concepts, and exchange ideas. This not only promotes teamwork but also helps students learn from each other. For example, when students play mathematical games with cards or dice, they can challenge each other, share strategies, and have fun while learning math.

**Reduced Math Anxiety:** Manipulative materials reduce math anxiety, which can hinder students’ performance. Manipulative materials offer a less intimidating environment where students can explore, make mistakes, and learn from them without the fear of judgment. They also make math more enjoyable and rewarding, which boosts students’ confidence and motivation. For example, when students use beads to create patterns, they can express their creativity, feel a sense of accomplishment, and develop a positive attitude towards math.

**Personalized Learning:** Manipulative materials support personalized learning. With the use of technology and interactive tools, manipulative materials can offer personalized learning experiences. Students can progress at their own pace, focusing on areas where they need more practice. They can also choose the materials that suit their learning styles and preferences. For example, when students use software to create graphs, they can customize the data, the colors, the labels, and the types of graphs that they want to make.

**Skill Development:** Manipulative materials foster skill development. In a mathematics laboratory, students can develop essential mathematical skills such as critical thinking, logical reasoning, and problem-solving. These skills are not only valuable in math but also in various other aspects of life. For example, when students use tiles to solve equations, they can improve their algebraic thinking, their analytical thinking, and their decision-making skills.

### Conclusion

Manipulative materials are one of the most effective ways to enhance mathematics learning. They make mathematics more fun, meaningful, and effective. They bridge the gap between theory and practice, fostering an appreciation for the real-world applications of mathematics. The benefits of manipulative materials are numerous, including improved understanding, retention, motivation, and performance in standardized tests.

Mathematics laboratory is a place where children can use manipulative materials to learn and enjoy mathematics. It is a place where children can discover, understand, apply, and communicate mathematical concepts and skills. It is a place where children can develop their confidence, creativity, and curiosity. It is a place where children can prepare themselves for the future.

In conclusion, mathematics laboratory is a revolutionary approach to mathematics education that offers a multitude of benefits for the children and the society. It enables the children to learn mathematics in a fun, meaningful, and effective way, by using manipulative materials to explore, discover, apply, and communicate mathematical concepts and skills. It also helps the children to develop their confidence, creativity, and curiosity, as well as their critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaborative skills.