Graphic Organizers: Not Just for Literacy

October 24, 2016

There is a shift occurring in how math is being taught. The focus is moving from computation to problem solving. Conceptual understanding, instead of memorization, is the goal teachers have for their students. With this shift comes a change in the instructional resources teachers need to use. Graphic organizers are a great way to help students “organize, record and communicate mathematical ideas” (Math TEKS 1.E).

 

The process standards that make up the first section of the math TEKS are consistent from kindergarten through high school. This vertical alignment highlights the importance of these crucial thinking skills. It is, however, much more difficult to represent the thinking process on paper rather than just the numerical answer. Graphic organizers are a tool that can help make student’s thinking more visible. Just as they are used to provide a structure for ideas during reading, graphic organizers can provide that same structure during math. Consider the following examples. A graphic structure can help students determine the order of steps or events in a problem. They can provide an easy way to compare and contrast concepts such as numbers or shapes. For example, a Venn diagram can be used to compare and contrast a rectangle and a square. This strategy not only helps students organize their thinking, but it also encourages them to analyze rectangles and squares at a deeper level. Finding and representing patterns becomes easier when information is presented in an organized way. Vocabulary for other content areas is often taught through the use of the Frayer model, so why not use it in math?

 

Using graphic organizers as a pedagogical tool in both literacy and math shows students that they can represent their thinking regardless of the content area. It supports both teacher and student in the transition from product to process.

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Training Spotlight

1st-3rd grade educators worked together to learn engaging ways to develop number sense. Students will develop fact fluency while playing games that use their number sense strategies. By learning their facts in this way, students are not merely memorizing, but rather learning to work with numbers flexibly.  “Low achievers are often low achievers not because they know less but because they don’t use numbers flexibly – they have been set on the wrong path, often from an early age, of trying to memorize methods instead of interacting with numbers flexibly.” Jo Boaler,  Stanford University, 2009

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