Instructional guidance and realism of manipulatives influence preschool children's mathematics learning

Kira J. Carbonneau, Scott Marley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Educators often use manipulatives when teaching mathematics because manipulatives are assumed to promote learning. However, research indicates that instructional variables impact the effectiveness of manipulatives. In this article, the authors consider the relations between two instructional characteristics: (a) level of instructional guidance and (b) perceptual qualities of manipulatives. Results from the randomized experiment with preschoolers (N = 72) suggest that learning is improved when instruction is conducted with high levels of instructional guidance and is impacted by the perceptual qualities of manipulatives. Perceptually rich manipulatives decreased learner performance on outcomes associated with conceptual knowledge and improved performance on transfer of learning. In addition, transfer was positively affected by perceptually rich manipulatives when low levels of instructional guidance were present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)495-513
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2015


  • activity-based learning
  • concrete objects
  • instructional guidance
  • manipulatives
  • mathematics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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