GSET Blogs

Teaching in Ghana, Manipulatives: Practicality, Pedagogy or Preference? The Role of Manipulatives in Ghanaian Classrooms 

Photo by Eren Li - Pexels

The use of manipulatives, which are physical objects that allow students to explore abstract concepts in a concrete way, has been a long-standing debate in education circles. In Ghana, where resources can be scarce and class sizes large, the practicality, pedagogy, and teacher preferences around using manipulatives are important considerations.

The Practical Realities

One of the biggest challenges in using manipulatives in Ghanaian classrooms is the lack of resources and funding. Many schools, particularly in rural areas, struggle to afford textbooks, let alone invest in manipulative resources for every student. Additionally, with classes often exceeding 50 students, having enough manipulative materials for all students to use simultaneously can be logistically difficult.

However, research shows that using low-cost or recycled materials as manipulatives can be just as effective as commercially-produced resources (Adu-Gyamfi et al., 2012). Bottle caps, sticks, stones, and other readily available items can be used to represent mathematical concepts or language components. The key is in the creative application by skilled teachers.

Pedagogical Perspectives  

From a pedagogical standpoint, extensive research supports the use of manipulatives, particularly in mathematics instruction (Uribe-Flórez & Wilkins, 2017). By allowing students to physically interact with representations of abstract ideas, manipulatives facilitate the construction of concrete understanding that can then scaffold more formal reasoning and symbolic comprehension.

Numerous studies have found manipulative use improves student achievement, engagement, and conceptual understanding across grade levels and ability levels (Carbonneau et al., 2013; Moyer, 2001). The hands-on nature appeals to different learning styles and can help make lessons more accessible and meaningful, especially for struggling students.

Teacher Preferences

Despite the established benefits, teacher attitudes towards manipulatives in Ghana tend to be mixed. Some educators embrace them as invaluable learning tools, while others view them as unnecessary extras or distracting toys (Mereku, 2010). 

Ingrained teaching methods, lack of training on manipulative integration, and confidence using non-traditional resources all influence teacher buy-in. However, research suggests effective professional development can overcome these barriers and increase teachers’ skills and willingness to utilize manipulatives productively (Usman, 2020).

The Way Forward

Ultimately, the use of manipulatives should be driven by both practical realities and strong pedagogical underpinnings. While resourcing remains an obstacle, the role of teacher preferences in determining classroom implementation cannot be ignored.

A balanced approach of continued educator training, emphasizing low-cost locally-sourced manipulatives, and shifting attitudes towards more hands-on, student-centered instruction could help leverage the benefits of manipulatives across Ghana. With thoughtful integration, these powerful learning tools can enhance conceptual understanding and engage students in new ways.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Visit Us

  • Ghana Society for Education Technology
  • Hse # 131 Sunflower Road
  • Lakeside Community 1
  • Ashaley Botwe
  •   050-000-7622

social media


Monday – Friday
08:00 am – 05:00 pm

© Ghana Society for Education Technology 2024

Scroll to Top