This study investigated the impact of the use of virtual manipulatives on community college remedial students’ attitudes, confidence and achievement in the learning of pre-algebra and algebra concepts. Since urban community college remedial students lack fundamental basic arithmetic and algebra skills similar to middle school students, we combined the use of computer applications with Bruner’s theory of three stages of representation to an experimental group while the control group was taught without computers.
A primary finding seems to be that the virtual manipulatives appear to be more useful in teaching pre-algebra remedial courses than in algebra remedial courses. At both levels, experimental group students overcame their initial mathematics misconceptions with less difficulty than the students in the control group. They found the classes with virtual manipulatives very exciting as the computer software provided them with many new practice exercises and instant feedback. At the college level, virtual manipulatives could play a significant role in the teaching of remedial math classes (pre-algebra and algebra) to community college students. The use of technology-rich and easy-to-use materials can also be appealing to college instructors of these classes, more so than hands-on manipulatives.