I can’t stop using visuals in elementary math. They are on every anchor chat, every lesson plan, every assignment if possible. It started last year when I noticed students were having trouble understanding place value until I made a visual 100 chart.
When students have a visual to connect mathematics to, it’s like something magical starts to happen. Students who excel want to make their own visuals, students who struggle start to understand…it’s truly remarkable.
You might be wondering more about what I mean by visuals. I’m going to introduce you to Berkeley Everett at Math Visuals. He is a K-5 Math Specialist out in California that has been working on making math come to life with visual animation. It’s truly remarkable the amount of hours he has put into this task, and it’s all FREE.
Need to learn to count in kindergarten? There’s a visual for that.
Need to see different types of division? There’s a visual for that.
Need to understand the concept behind compensation in addition? There’s a visual for that.
Need to work on different ways to represent two digit numbers using place value concepts? Theres a visual for that, too.
Go to this site and you’ll be lost for hours. Better yet, it will inspire you to create your own visuals on your math anchor charts. It will inspire your students to connect those very abstract math concepts to something that they can hold in their brain.
Thank you Berkeley, you’ve made me a better math teacher, and helped a whole lot of students at our school.
I’m hooked and am a firm believer in this approach!
I know you know that moment… where you find students looking at you with the deer in headlights look. In my intervention groups, I see it several times in 30 minutes! I was desperately searching for more ways to make math meaningful for them when I discovered this approach. And, I will tell you, it works EVERY time. I mean, EVERY SINGLE TIME. There has not been one single concept that I haven’t been able to master with a child when I used this approach.
If you don’t have time to read the article, the approach is summed up quite simply in three steps:
When a student is introduced to a new concept or something unfamiliar, you allow the use of tools. (Concrete)
When the student can perform the task, they move on to representing the concept with drawings or pictures. (Representational)
When the student can master the task with a drawing or a picture they move to using only numbers and symbols. (Abstract)
* Note it is important to keep all three of these ways visible to promote strong connections and deep conceptual understanding.
I realized that this could be even MORE powerful when students could self assess where they are in this approach. I made this poster with them and we refer to it constantly.
They are constantly checking “where their brains are at” when they are struggling through a problem. When the numbers and symbols don’t make sense, they actually back themselves up to drawings. If that still doesn’t make sense they back up and use concrete tools.