- Caroline Farkas

# 3 Ways to Make Math Visual for Students in Upper Elementary

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

__Research__ shows us over and over again how important it is for students to have visual aids in mathematics. It is so important that this month’s __NCTM__ Mathematics Teacher: Learning and Teaching PK-12 even lists visuals as one of the top __5 ways to make word problems meaningful__! Not only is this crucial for your typical learner, but visuals are essential for students who speak English as their second language and students with learning disabilities. So how can you accomplish this? Here are my top 3 ways to turn that math problem into a picture.

**1. Use blocks, cubes, dice, or random objects**

Students sometimes need a tangible object in order to count or make sense of a problem. In my classroom, I loved having a whole set of manipulatives that students could choose from in order to show their thinking. Some of my favorite __manipulatives__ are linking cubes and base ten blocks. Even if you do not have a ton of math manipulatives (because let’s be honest, they can get pricey!) you can use things that are laying around your house or classroom. Objects like pennies, beads, or shredded-up paper make great manipulatives!

**2. Draw a picture**

Channel your inner Picasso and paint a giant mural on the wall! Just kidding- your picture doesn’t have to be perfect or extravagant in any way! Students need someone to show them how to practice that wonderful mathematical practice of “model with mathematics”. I love drawing a picture with students, especially for word problems. If we are solving a problem about Susie bringing cupcakes to school, I would draw those cupcakes to show whatever was happening in the problem. As adults, we might be able to visualize 13 cupcakes, but students often do not have this skill yet. Your drawings do not have to be perfect! Sometimes I think that is better because it shows students that their art skill level does not matter.

**3. Find resources that are visually appealing**

There are so many wonderful resources for teachers out there that can help students make math visual! Some of my online favorites are __didax.com__, and __toy theatre__. You can also create your own visual resources or print out my __illustrations __to help students. This is the exact reason why I created Doodles and Digits. I felt that there could be even more math visuals for students and teachers. Check out my __Teacher’s Pay Teacher’s Store__ for math clip art, coloring books, and more!

What are your favorite ways to make math visual for your students? I would love to hear them!

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