Do students need to draw the bars when solving word problems?

Dear Sarah,

I am currently in the unit of Parts to Whole, teaching bar modeling.  Looking ahead, it seems to me that bar modeling is a big part of not only this unit but upcoming units as well.

My wondering and question: I have students who are looking at the problems and can figure them out by stacking numbers then using the renaming strategy which was what they learned in lessons before bar modeling.  Should I be encouraging all of my students to draw the bar model before stacking the numbers to solve the problem? How critical is it for them to bar model? Please know that I am not saying that I don’t want to teach it at all, but I don’t know how much I should be “pushing” those that either don’t understand it or those that feel like they can work the problems using other strategies.

One Response to Do students need to draw the bars when solving word problems?

  1. sarahschaef says:

    Typically the model used to help solve word problems, bar model, is a “tool.”
    The foundations for using this tool are built in grade 1 and 2 when the problems are easier, and the visual representation deepens the part/whole relationship and comparative relationship.
    I feel we need to make sure students get the time to sharpen this “tool” with practice. Many times I will suggest homework (1 of the 4 word problems) must include a model. Some days it will be my choice as to what problem will require the model, other days will be their choice.
    On an assessment, I will do the same. For some reason in our country, if you don’t test it, they do not think they need to learn it. For this reason, I require it for one, but not every question given.
    If a student does not solve a problem correctly, I will not give any help unless I can see the model. Many students will find their error when using the bar.
    The goal is to solve a word problem. The problems the students attack in upper grades are much harder, and the bar model is necessary.
    Will the tools be sharp enough to effective when they need it?

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