"The Apprehension of Math"
Some people find it easy
to learn the abstractions of math,
but for others, the grasp of math
lives only in their hands.
Trying to learn only from
numbers written on a page
leaves some students with
the apprehension of math
instead of understanding, and
so they soon come to dread it.
Turn the abstract concrete, though,
and more students can grasp it.
Maria Montessori began with
the Red Rods, graduated in length;
then the Number Rods, even blocks
alternating red and blue colors.
With these, students could feel
numbers in the form of blocks,
and come to understand
the concept of length.
Catherine Stern made
a set of colored rods by
staining wood in pretty colors.
She also made other tools
to complement them, like
trays and tracks on which
to arrange the rods.
designed the réglettes,
each one centimeter longer
and painted a specific color,
illustrating the numbers
from one to ten.
He discovered that
even 'weak' students
could become strong
after using the rods.
popularized this set,
now knows as the
improved those with
the Colour Factor system.
These rods went from
one to twelve, in colors
assigned by logic.
With tools like these,
any student can find
factors at their fingertips.
By manipulating the rods,
they discover that numbers
can be seen and manipulated.
This gives the tactile students
a whole new apprehension of math,
based not on disquiet but on capture.
* * *
apprehension [ap-ri-hen-shuhn] noun
* anticipation of adversity or misfortune; suspicion or fear of future trouble or evil.
* the faculty or act of apprehending orunderstanding; perception on a direct and immediate level.
* acceptance of or receptivity to information without passing judgment on its validity, often without complete comprehension.
* a view, opinion, or idea on any subject.
* the act of arresting; seizure:
Maria Montessori used rods to represent numbers, including the Red Rods and red-and-blue Number Rods.
Catherine Stern made a set of rods with different colors to represent numbers, as part of the Stern Structural Arithmetic Kit.
Georges Cuisenaire invented the Cuisenaire rods, later popularized by Caleb Gattegno.
Seton Pollock introduced the Colour Factor system, with colors logically assigned to numbers.
Math manipulatives can improve understanding in many ways. Here are some manipulatives for sale and possible uses. You can make your own math manipulatives and assemble a kit.