As an instructional coach, I often get asked to come in and work with students on solving word problems. Whether it's the language or the mathematics, students seem to struggle with word problems, especially multi-step problems.
About 4 years into my career, I was introduced to the idea of bar models. You may have heard them called model drawing or even tape diagrams, but they are basically rectangular boxes that help students to determine the operation by modeling the problem. Students are still doing the same math, but they are using a model to prove the way they should solve the problem.
I thought this was cool, but as an algebra geek, I didn't really see the point. Can't students just do the math and find the answer?!
While attending a training, I rolled my eyes at every problem (I was a horrible participant) until I was presented a problem that had so many steps. I didn't know where to start. Once I began working it, I realized drawing a model would be the only way to find out what to do! It made me a believer in the awesome bar model!
Nine years later, I am telling everyone that I can to use bar models from late 1st grade and up to help students learn more about operations. Remember to emphasize what operation they see and to continue to do the mathematics.
Check out an example here:
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