A fellow classmate, Liana Exente, starting a discussion thread about manipulatives in education, a term I was not familiar with. Below is an excerpt from her writing that should give you an indication of what they are:
“Manipulatives media involves the student in learning through physical interaction, an effective alternative to text and visual media. In the context of education, manipulatives, are physical tools of teaching, engaging students visually and physically with objects. By using manipulatives, students become more independent are actively engaged in discovery during the learning process.”
I did a couple years of schooling toward a math degree before switching into an electrical apprenticeship and then taking on a role teaching electrical. Manipulatives in the trades is an essential part of the learning process and it is not just the time in the lab. Even during lectures instructors will pass around a small transformer for example while explaining how they work. Sometime they would even disassemble items and put them back together to demonstrate the principles they learned in action. There is definitely something to be said about having your other senses engaged while learning.
Below is a link to an interesting powerpoint on slide share on the history of manipulatives from ancient times to digital manipulatives being used today that I found quite interesting. To me, incorporating manipulatives in education feels very intuitively like the right thing to do and the options and applications are endless.