Reflection on the Effects of Concrete Mathematics Manipulatives on Student Engagement and Problem Solving in Three Secondary Schools in Trinidad and Tobago

Jozette Roberts, Sasha Phipps, Diandra Subeeksingh, Sharon Jacqueline Jaggernauth, Nalini Ramsawak-Jodha, Zhanna Dedovets


This paper reports and reflects on three studies that explored changes in students’ engagement in learning mathematics, and their ability to solve mathematics problems in three secondary schools in Trinidad and Tobago. Concrete manipulatives were integrated into mathematics instruction over 4 weeks in Trigonometry at two sites, and Set Theory at one site. The individual studies employed multi-method quasi-experimental, single-group action research designs. Student and teacher journals, observation checklists and notes were analysed using thematic analysis to identify themes related to student engagement. T-tests were computed to determine whether students perceived that engagement changed over their exposure to the intervention. Students’ ability to solve mathematics problems was investigated via t-tests to determine whether their pre- and post-intervention achievement scores differed significantly, as well as qualitative analysis of their solutions to mathematics problems in the respective units. There was observable evidence of improvement in engagement, in learning, and problem-solving ability at the three sites. The findings across research sites suggested that students responded favourably to the integration of manipulatives into instruction. Reflections on these findings suggest that though they are specific to the three schools, they are consistent with research outcomes in research literature and support the integration of manipulatives into mathematics instruction to improve student engagement in learning and mathematics problem solving.


Concrete Manipulatives; Mathematics Instruction; Student Engagement; Problem Solving; Action Research

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