Honors Program Thesis (UNI Access Only)

First Advisor

Catherine Miller


Manipulatives (Education); Mathematics--Study and teaching (Secondary);


This study consists of an extensive review of literature as it applies to the learning of mathematics, the effects of student learning through manipulative use, the potential role of manipulatives in secondary mathematics classrooms, the characteristics of useful manipulatives, and the introduction of manipulatives into mathematics classrooms. The first step in this research was the development of a list of topics to address and questions to answer. Then, using those lists, library databases and scholarly online journals were searched for research pertaining to the topic. Of the available literature, sources were narrowed down to include those which discussed the importance of instruction containing manipulatives, the use of manipulatives in mathematics classrooms today, and the lack of mathematical manipulative use in the secondary grades. Unfortunately, there was little to no research available about the effects of manipulative use in secondary classrooms. As such, I had to draw my own conclusions about the connections between primary and secondary mathematics learning and the effect of manipulatives on learning in the high school setting. For the most part, research was limited to studies done in the last 25 years, but overall I chose to take notice of any articles which proved to be of high quality and relevance.

Once the research was compiled, the next step was to organize the information within each piece of literature as it pertained to specific topics I wanted to address. These categories included manipulative use (whether in elementary or in secondary grades), the effects manipulatives have on student understanding, benefits of manipulative use, the lack of their use in high school classrooms, examples of manipulative materials, and suggestions for methods regarding the introduction and use of manipulatives in the mathematics classroom. Once I had successfully organized the literature, I laid out the order in which I would address each topic and 3 I analyzed the information so as to make sure my review was cohesive and easy to follow. Lastly, I considered my own experiences in the area of mathematics manipulative use so as to create an argument that was based in everyday life.

In order to justify the importance of manipulatives, research from both elementary and secondary education sources must be studied in order to examine the uses and benefits of mathematics manipulatives. The information found will be used to understand the decline of manipulative use in the higher grades and will make an argument as to whether or not the high school setting, in particular, would benefit from an increase in use of mathematics manipulatives. For the final outcome of this work, I hope to present a well-researched report that will benefit educators and provide examples of manipulative-based instruction that can be used in the secondary mathematics classroom.

Date of Award



Department of Mathematics

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (41 pages)



File Format


Off-Campus Download