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Draw Pictures of Word Problems


Mathematics ^21st Century Skills Social-Emotional Learning MS/HS/College Strategy


Working Memory Verbal Reasoning Abstract Reasoning Spatial Perception

Draw Pictures of Word Problems

Drawing pictures when solving math word problems can help you quickly identify what you know, what information is missing, and what you need to do to solve the problem.

How To Apply It!

  1. Offer these concrete steps to students:
  2. Read the problem from the beginning one time through. Draw the general shape(s) you need. Next read through the problem and stop each time you get a new piece of information to draw it into the picture.
  3. Keep the picture simple and neat so you can easily find the numbers you need. Use basic shapes such as rectangles, triangles or circles or stick figures for people. Use arrows or words if needed. Include labels so you remember to do conversions if needed.
  4. When possible, use graph paper to draw your pictures, especially when it is important to draw to scale.
  5. Recognize when standard formats will help you and use them. Venn diagrams, 2x2 matrices, and fishbones are all helpful to organize and visualize data.
  6. Never think you are too old to use pictures. Engineers always use them. Pictures clarify thinking, help you communicate your ideas to you teacher, and will help you reflect if your answer makes sense.

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

Picturing a problem offers a concrete way for students to organize the information, understand the question and identify a solution in a way they cannot always do in their head. For students with weaker working memory, pictures can help track what they have done and what they need to find out in multi-step problems. Pictures enable all students to more effectively visualize math problems.