"What strategies can you use to solve math equations and word problems?" I ask my class of 27 curious learners. I wait 30 seconds to discover a few hands raised while other students have a quizzical look on their faces with their hands half raised. I ask the question again, and students are unsure of how to answer my question. I see about two brave students raise their hands again, and one says, "By drawing tally marks," and the other student shouts out, "I can count on my fingers." I inquire, "Anyone else?" I notice the faces with blank stares. I proceed to draw pictures of happy faces, apples, squares, among other shapes, and houses with paths connecting to measure distance. The reactions from students are "oh yeah," and "I knew that." Students begin to shout out other objects and ways to draw pictures to solve problems.
Although my students realize you can use pictures to solve mathematical equations and word problems, they haven't figured out how to connect these pictures to represent the numbers in equations and the words in the word problems. It can get difficult to transfer a tangible object such as a 10-rod (base10 block) into a picture of a 10-rod. For example, students are able to count the number of parts on a 10-rod, but will fail at drawing a 10-rod with ten equal parts. Students may also find it challenging to draw a picture to illustrate the fraction 3/4. Students will have a difficult time solving problems with fractions if the drawing has unequal parts. At times, fraction parts are of unequal size. Students will attempt to compare two images of fractions that are not of equal size or contain unequal parts. Pictures of fractions must been drawn with accuracy and precision in order to interpret and solve equations and word problems.
It is my goal to teach children how important and useful pictures can be when they study math. They are a tool and strategy they can use to figure out difficult math problems. Pictures can be drawn to tell a math problem to complement words or equations. The pictorial stage in teaching and learning mathematics is used for all students, but can appeal even more to the visual learners, special needs students, and English Language Learners. For these students, math problems come to "life," and they are more understandable. Pictures maybe easier to solve than words and equations. I need all students to learn to appreciate drawing pictures as a strategy to use when they get stuck on solving problems. Words, numbers and symbols are important, but pictures can substitute for written communication to make math more engaging and easier to learn. In this unit, I focus on fractions because they are a real challenge for my students in 3