Math Strengths and Stretches (MSS):
Math Strengths and Stretches is a unique system that helps meet the needs of all students, no matter where they are in the learning process. MSS allows students to work freely within the concrete-pictorial-abstract continuum of learning. Students can build, draw, and solve problems to help increase understanding. When students can use colored counters, Base-10 Blocks, Unifix Cubes, or other manipulatives to help them solve problems, student engagement and understanding increases.
Data currently shows that, developmentally, students should begin the learning process at the “concrete” stage, using manipulatives to help understand new concepts. Unfortunately, 80% of the time, teachers begin instruction in the “abstract” phase – they immediately provide the algorithm so students can plug in numbers to arrive at a solution. Without building the problem with their hands or drawing it first, using the algorithm becomes a magic trick that provides the answer. Instead, students need background knowledge about why the algorithm works. Even accelerated students sometimes struggle to create visuals of mathematical concepts. MSS breaks down key concepts for students experiencing difficulties while inviting gifted students to be creative and try solving problems in different ways.