Virtual Manipulatives in a Computer-Based Learning Environment: How experimental data informs the design of future systems


Maria Mendiburo and Gautam Biswas

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In the fall of 2009, we conducted an experiment in which we compared virtual and physical fractions manipulatives. We facilitated instruction in the virtual condition using a program called Virtually Fractions, which we designed specifically for the experiment. The instructional elements of Virtually Fractions align with a commercial curriculum that integrates physical manipulatives into instruction. As such, our experiment allowed us to test the non-instructional elements of the Virtually Fractions system within a proven instructional model. In this paper, we discuss the design of the system as well as what the data collected during our experiment tells us about the ways students interacted with the system.


Computer-based learning environments, virtual manipulatives, mathematics education, fractions.