Motion Virtual Manipulatives in the Elementary Math Classroom



Manipulatives,  Motion-sensing devices, Mathematics

District Partner

Project Duration

From 2015 to 2017

Background and Purpose

Manipulatives are a powerful tool to help students grasp the foundational concepts of mathematics. This is especially true of elementary school mathematics where it is essential that students learn mathematical concepts and how they can be used to solve problems and compute solutions. One way to introduce manipulatives into the elementary school classroom and increase student engagement with STEM-based technologies is through the use of motion-sensing input devices such as the Microsoft Kinect. These devices interpret user movements and translate the movements into a gaming environment displayed on a screen.

The researchers proposed creating an environment where students use motion-sensing input devices to interact with mathematic manipulatives in an engaging environment. The goal of this project was to create a new tool set called motion virtual manipulatives (MVMs). MVMs will:

  • introduce manipulatives into the elementary school classroom using motion-sensing input devices,
  • be an effective tool for teaching core mathematical concepts, and
  • potentially reach students who do not respond to typical mathematic instructions.

This software will be available at little to no cost to students or teachers. Once developed, the researchers planned to take the program into schools for evaluation with the intent of improving the software and expanding its implementation to other grade levels and school settings. 


  • Roughly one-third of the touches registered in the application involved unintended touch actions
  • Engagement levels were high for solving math problems 

Resulting Publications

Follow-On Grants


Sarah Diesburg pictture
Diesburg, Sarah

Assistant Professor, Computer Science, University of Northern Iowa

feldhaus picture
Feldhaus, Adam

Assistant Professor, Math, University of Northern Iowa