Enriching Project-Based Learning Environments with Virtual Manipulatives: A Comparative Study

Assoc.Prof.Dr., Karadeniz Technical University.


Problem statement: Although there is agreement on the potential of projectbased learning (PBL) and virtual manipulatives (VMs), their positive impact depends on how they are used. This study was based on supporting the use of online PBL environments and improving the efficacy of the instructional practices in PBL by combining the potentials of PBL and VMs.

Purpose of the study: The purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of a PBL environment enriched with VMs by comparing it with a traditional PBL environment. The comparison is focused on academic achievements in Quadratic Equations and Polynomials subjects and attitudes towards mathematics courses.

Methods: Since randomly assigning students to groups was not possible, a quasi-experimental design was used in the study. One experimental group (EG; N = 30) and one comparison group (CG; N = 30) were used in the study. While the comparison group was taught with traditional PBL activities, the experimental group received some other PBL by using the web enriched with VMs. Participants in the EG and the CG were pretested and post-tested with an Achievement Test (AT), including 25 questions about Polynomials and Quadratic Equations subjects. The changes in attitudes were investigated by an attitude scale.

Findings and Results: The statistical analysis indicates that EG students significantly outperformed CG students with respect to AT results. The change in attitudes towards mathematics courses was not statistically significant among the two groups.

Conclusions and Recommendations: The results of the study provided some empirical evidence about the positive effects of VMs that are used to enrich PBL environments. Although changes in attitudes have not been seen, positive academic achievements have been revealed in two subjects. Based on the study, it is concluded that the combination of VMs and PBL may be an effective way to enhance students’ understanding of mathematics subjects and to improve their academic achievements.

Keywords: Virtual manipulatives, project based learning, teaching mathematics, comparative analysis.