The Model Method answers the question, “How can I help my students struggling with word problems?” Many times, the suggested approach is to identify key words to make problems easier. This is not an effective approach. A superior strategy is to allow more opportunities for students to “visualize” the process by offering pictorial support.
Bar models, also referred to as model drawings or tape drawings, are used to provide a pictorial representation for the structure of word problems. This applies to basic as well as complex word problems. The benefits of visual modeling:
1) Students are able to process the information.
2) Students make sense of both known and unknown quantities and see the relationship between them.
3) It enables students to construct algebraic equations in which they better understand what the “unknown” represents as well as the steps for solving it.
4) And perhaps most crucial, the ability to interpret the result. Reflecting on the solution with pictorial representation takes the students beyond solving for “x.” Rather, it propels them towards an understanding of what “x” really means.
This approach requires students to build this visualization using a pictorial mode. When students are asked to represent both known and unknown quantities before working towards a solution, the process of drawing reinforces the visualization process. Further, it allows students to make sense of the quantitative relationships involved in the problem. The end result, students are able to conceptualize the process while building both confidence and the capacity to take on any situation.