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Interactivate Website: Virtual Manipulatives, Math, and Multiple Representations

Posted by udlspotlight on April 14, 2009

The Interactivate website has over 150 java-based interactive tools and activities (aka, applets) categorized by topic, that allow students to explore mathematics. It’s a free (donations accepted) resource developed and maintained by Shodor Educational Foundation and it’s as useful for teachers as it is engaging for students. All the tools and activities have explanations of how to use them in the classroom and most are aligned with common math texts. All are aligned to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) standards.

Why virtual manipulatives? Although traditional textbooks present different representations of math concepts,  it is often difficult for students to make sense of these representations and to understand the relationships between concepts. For years, hand-held manipulatives have  helped students better understand math concepts and relationships. Virtual manipulatives, like those offered on the Interactivate website, offer added possibilities for exploration that aren’t possible in either textbooks or with hand-helds.

Watch the short clip below demonstrating how Interactivate’s Spinner Activity can be used to explore theoretical and experimental probability. 

Watch the  Spinner

Explore how the Spinner Activity aligns with the UDL Guidelines

Access the complete version of the UDL Guidelines: Version 1.0

Multiple Means of Representation Multiple Means of Action and Expression
Checkpoint 2.5: Provide options that illustrate key concepts non-linguistically. The Spinner activity provides a visual and numeric representation of a key math concept – Probability.   

Checkpoint 3.2: Provide options that highlight critical features, big ideas, and relationships. Students can literally see and experience how experimental probability approaches theoretical probability as they increase the number of spins. The “Results Frame” provides another option for students to explore their understanding of the relationship between experimental and theoretical probability.

Checkpoint 5.3: Provide options in the scaffolds for practice and performance. Using a virtual spinner means that students can simulate many more spins than can be done with a physical spinner. Therefore students can focus on the math concepts.
Checkpoint 7.1: Provide options that increase individual choice and autonomy.

Students have multiple ways they can virtually manipulate the spinner and the table. They can also create their own spinner simulations which helps to keep them engaged.


Checkpoint 8.2: Provide options that vary levels of challenge and support.

Students can adjust the level of challenge by increasing or decreasing the number of sectors in the spinner circle.

We have chosen to highlight how one Interactivate activity, the  Spinner, aligns with the UDL Guidelines, but there are many more tools and activities on the website that align with the UDL Guidelines.  We congratulate the Interactivate staff for creating these engaging virtual manipulatives that offer students another option for exploring mathematical concepts.  

A Note about Accessibility

Interactivate tools and activities are not designed to be accessible to students with visual impairments or who need to use a single switch to interact with a computer. We notice that the directions cannot always be read with text-to-speech, although they are usually not complicated, so students can generally figure out what to do without reading.  Does anyone have a suggestion for text-to-speech issue? We’d love to hear it.  Overall, a great job, a great resource. Well worth checking out.

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