Model-drawing is one of the most powerful techniques in helping our children understand complex primary school Math word problems. It could help them visualise primary school mathematics problems easily. Using boxes or rectangles to represent numbers, it enables them to compare numbers, fractions, ratios and percentages easily. This method is heavily depended on for any primary school student.
But what happens when our children begin their secondary education? All of a sudden, the alphabets in the algebraic equation seem so foreign. The math models learned in Primary school seemed to be useless and a burden. Or is it so?
In fact, model-drawing sets a strong foundation in our children’s mind to understanding algebra.
Comparing model-drawing and algebraic solution side-by-side, we can observe a striking similarity.
The primary school maths model method was meant to prepare your child for algebraic thinking. It helps them to think in “units and parts”, make sense of the greater/smaller values to find the difference and provide a graphical explanation of the problem sum. So, when our children encounter a problem in constructing an algebraic equation to tell the story, we must always encourage them to recall the building blocks in the procedures of model-drawing.
Some guiding questions could be:
- Who has more?
- How many/much more?
- If we replace the units with alphabets, how do we write the equation?
- How much does the basic block of 1u or x equate to?
Activating Prior Knowledge for Lower Sec Mathematics
Instead of drawing a line between primary and secondary math, it would help our children greatly if we were to help them see the common grounds shared by both domains. This is what is termed as activating prior knowledge. It applies when we transition from Primary school (PSLE) to lower secondary, from lower secondary to upper secondary (O levels), and then from upper secondary to junior college (A levels).
Applying this to lower secondary students, they will see algebraic thinking as an extension of model-drawing. Alphabets and numbers are no longer seen as separate entities, but continuity and familiarity.
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