The Role of Animations and Manipulatives in Supporting Learning and Communication in Mathematics Classrooms

The Role of Animations and Manipulatives in Supporting Learning and Communication in Mathematics Classrooms

Lida J. Uribe-Flórez (New Mexico State University, USA) and Jesús Trespalacios (New Mexico State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2848-9.ch020


This chapter describes the use of a computer-based animation and manipulatives to support learning and communication of mathematical thinking in a fourth-grade classroom. The educational animation called Overruled, part of the Math Snacks project (, was utilized to address the concept of length units. The animation describes a story in which the king and the queen from two different kingdoms (Kingopolis and Queentopia) fell in love and wanted to unite their territories by constructing a bridge. Engineers from each kingdom were responsible for building their side of the bridge. However, each kingdom has its own length unit. Authors follow research based recommendations to use the Overruled animation in mathematics activity with fourth-grade students.
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2. Literature Review

In a position statement about technology and math education, NCTM (2008) indicates technology is an essential tool for learning mathematics in the 21st century, and all schools must ensure that all their students have access to technology. Effective teachers maximize the potential of technology to develop students’ understanding, stimulate their interest, and increase their proficiency in mathematics. (p. 1)

Even though, in mathematics education, technology is usually related to calculators and interactive mathematical software, instructional animations are also great technological tools that teachers can use to foster students’ understanding and interest in mathematics. These animations have been increasingly popular in computer-based education (Hasler, Kersten & Sweller, 2007). Animated materials have the potential to support students’ learning based on their capacity to depict dynamic situations explicitly (Betrancourt, 2005; Lowe, 2004). However, research has failed to provide enough evidence of the benefits of using computer-based animations in education (Ayres & Paas, 2007).

Based on multimedia learning theory (Mayer, 2005, 2009) and cognitive load theory (Plass, Moreno & Brünken, 2010; Sweller, Ayres & Kalyuga, 2011), Ayres, Kalyuga, Marcus and Sweller (2005) summarized specific instructional strategies that may improve the effectiveness of instructional animations. These authors recommend: (1) acquiring sufficient prior knowledge; (2) keeping the information longer on the screen; (3) controlling the pace of the animation; (4) segmenting the animation in parts; (5) presenting statics before animations; (6) increasing interactivity; and (7) predicting situations in the animation.

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