Virtual and Physical Manipulatives: Technology's Impact on Fraction Learning
Mendiburo, Maria Angela
This dissertation examines the relative instructional efficiency of virtual fraction manipulatives and physical fraction manipulatives. More specifically, this dissertation uses a randomized experiment to determine if differences in students’ knowledge of fraction magnitude exist when students learn basic fraction concepts using virtual manipulatives compared to when students learn basic fraction concepts using physical manipulatives. During the experimental study, students spent two weeks learning about fractions using different forms of manipulatives (i.e. physical or virtual), but other important variables such as the teacher, lesson plans, instructional scripts, the type of practice activities assigned to students, and the amount of time students spent practicing using manipulatives were held constant across conditions. Students completed assessments at the end of both the first and second weeks of the intervention, and the results of the assessments indicate that virtual manipulatives are at least as effective as physical manipulatives and possibly more effective. This dissertation also examines the time-efficiency of using virtual rather than physical manipulatives by tracking the number of practice activities students completed on each day of instruction and making comparisons between treatment conditions. Results indicate that when the amount of time spent practicing is held constant, students complete more practice activities using virtual rather than physical manipulatives. However, the impact on student learning of the additional practice is unclear.