The Teaching Model we recommend for all learning and teaching in numeracy is to always first use concrete materials to represent a problem or concept visually, then screen in some way to develop a mental image, and only then move on to abstract numbers.
In this way children are actively making sense of their learning and developing a strong conceptual understanding rather than following rules or processes. Have a look at Page 3 of the Highland Numeracy Progression for more information.
Here are some fantastic examples of this being used to develop understanding of fractions from Drakies Primary:
I also love these video clips from NZ Maths, Maths Recovery and Singapore Maths showing the importance of concrete materials to building conceptual understanding, and modelling how they can be used:
If you find these useful, please comment or email – and it would be fantastic to see examples of how you have used the Teaching Model in your setting!