Engage NY / Eureka Math focuses on using pictorial models to show what is happening in math. Engaging children and creating visual models are great reasons for this strategy. Let’s imagine for a minute that you have a class of 20 eight-year-olds sitting in front of you. You are up there writing equations on the board. You look to them to answer you. Yes, they do. They may have the experience of recalling facts. You feel good and think, “Yes, my students know their math.”
Now you ask them WHY their answer is true. Uh oh, now the blank stares back at you. Start from the beginning and SHOW them everything!
Begin showing students pictures and practice talking out stories about those pictures. Say you present a picture of a tree with three birds sitting on a branch and two birds flying in the sky. The students may present to you stories such as, “There were five birds sitting on the tree branch. Then two flew away. How many birds are left?” Another way to discuss the picture may alter the operation such as, “There are three birds sitting on a tree branch. Two more birds fly over to join them. How many birds are there now in all?” Students use the pictures to relate the math stories and then determine the appropriate operation.
Students can draw a number bond as the picture and practice reading it to a partner both starting with the total and taking one part away. Then reading it as part and part come together to make the total.
Now, students take on the drawing for themselves. Allow them to illustrate stories using animals, insects, buttons, pencils, you name it! The sky is the limit, and they love this activity.
Math Center Tip: Allow some free space and a designated writing journal just for students to write their own math stories. This is great reinforcement outside of the math lesson. Providing a Math Story Writing Center during center time is a great way to work this into the day.
Eureka math lessons use the pictorial method in many ways. When students are younger, they are seeing these elaborate story telling pictures. As they get older, they still use pictures for story problems. They continue to use number bonds, and then they move on to using bar models (also known as a tape diagram).
The purpose of all of these pictorial representations of equations is to show why. The children look at these pictures and they can see exactly what they are counting. The numbers in the equations match up with the number of objects in their pictures.
Math makes sense and has meaning. Abstract thinking does not come until these pictures are reinforced to show how the operation works.
The pictures also help us as teachers to level our math work. We now have an abundant of strategies to offer our students when using the Eureka Math program. This is ideal for us knowing that each of our students learn in different ways. When you support students, you want to meet them at their level and provide them with a technique that not only helps them to arrive at the correct answer in the moment, but it helps them to deeply understand the concept being taught.
Just think, a picture can say a thousand words, and teach what one thousand actually is!
- Classroom Teacher
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