Graphic Organizers in Math

Powerful Tools for Effective Learning

Mixed race student counting on fingers in classroom
Mixed race student counting on fingers in classroom. JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

The use of a graphic organizer can start as early as first or second grade and can continue to be useful for some learners all the way through high school. In subjects such as math, that grow increasingly complex as students get older, these tools can be especially helpful in maintaining organized work habits and enhancing problem-solving skills. If used correctly and consistently as students develop, the concepts of strategic thinking graphic organizers instill will likely have reached the point that many learners no longer need them by the time they reach high school.

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How To Use Graphic Organizers in Math

Math Graphic Organizer
Math Graphic Organizer. Deb Russell

Using graphic organizers has been a proven effective problem-solving strategy for helping young learners think and process information more efficiently by allowing them to both visualize and organize the information they need to solve problems. Creativity and careful attention to detail can be greatly enhanced via the use of visual maps—which is exactly what a graphic organizer is. A graphic organizer aids in organizing thought processes as well as creating a framework to collect and compare the information that's being gathered. That's why, in addition to structuring information, organizers can be used to improve students' abilities to comprehend and process that information by seeing it separated it into categories of what is more important and what less important. 

​Over time, graphic organizers help learners become strategic problem solvers. Provided they're used effectively and consistently as an integral part of the problem-solving process, graphic organizers can also improve test scores. 

 

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How Graphic Organizers Work for Math

A typical graphic organizer has the problem printed on it. The paper is divided into four quadrants with the problem appearing at the top, although sometimes, it can be found in the middle of the page. 

The first quadrant is used for the student to determine what the problem is actually trying to solve for. The second quadrant is used to determine what strategies are needed to solve the problem. The third quadrant is used to show the steps involved in order to solve the problem. The fourth quadrant is used to answer the question that is initially being asked and to indicate why the answer the reasoning behind how the answer was arrived at, and why the answer is correct. 

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Graphic Organizers: The Takeaway

Graphic organizers can be a parent or teacher's go-to problem-solving tool of choice for many reasons but the bottom line is, the better a student can visualize and organize the strategy that goes into arriving at their answers, the more likely young learners are not only to come up with the appropriate solutions but also, to understand how they arrived at those solutions and what makes their answers correct.

Ultimately, the learner:

  • determines what's being asked
  • considers and tries out strategies
  • determines and shows answer
  • looks back to ensure that all parts of the question have been answered
  • provides a final answer to the question

Some of the graphic organizers used for problem-solving in math are referred to as 4-Block, 4 Corners, 4 Square or the Frayer Model. Regardless of which template you choose, you'll find that when it's used effectively and consistently, enhanced problem solving will be the result.