How Will Teaching Mathematics with Inquiry Based Lessons Using Manipulatives Impact 3rd Grade Children's Understanding of Fractions?

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)


Education and Human Development

First Advisor

Dr. Susan Novinger


During a five week unit on fractions I collected data using observations, interviews, and student work to discover how teaching mathematics with inquiry-based lessons using manipulatives impacts 3rd grade children's understanding of fractions. The main goal for student learning was to increase students' understanding of fractions and to get students working together to solve problems while practicing social skills. I wanted to learn if hands-on manipulatives did have an impact on students' understanding of fractions and use any new information to improve my teaching of fractions. I have constructed a case study of each student and looked across many different kinds of data.

I have used my analysis to determine the impact of the easily accessible hands-on manipulatives, and study the methods students use to construct their own knowledge of fractions. These analyses have shown that inquiry-based lessons along with the use of manipulatives does have an impact on the students' understanding of fractions. Throughout the study I observed many different types of learning experiences and saw students using a combination of prior knowledge, hands-on tools, and collaboration to solve problems. Many students were excited about this new learning experience and the level of motivation increased as each lesson progressed to the next. This study has also helped me to learn about children's thinking and this has helped me to make decisions about how to best scaffold students' learning. By learning how students are thinking and using tools to learn and discover, I can develop new strategies to introduce content and adjust the lessons to best fit the needs of each individual student.

While teaching mathematics in this manner it was difficult to change my teaching style from a traditional style to an inquiry approach where lessons are selected and designed through problems. These lessons enable the learner to acquire and use problem solving skills and self-directed learning strategies. Reviewing literature and studying theories designed around inquiry based education and constructivism helped me to change my style to help students learn, discover, and solve problems in a new and exciting way.

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