Graphic Organizers in Math

Mixed race student counting on fingers in classroom
Mixed race student counting on fingers in classroom. JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images
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How To Use Graphic Organizers in Math

Math Graphic Organizer
Math Graphic Organizer. Deb Russell

Why Use A Graphic Organizer for Problem Solving in Math?

4 Block Organizer in PDF Format

Graphic organizers are a proven strategy for helping learners think. Thinking processes are often enhanced with visual maps which is exactly what a graphic organizer is. A graphic organizer helps to organize thinking and thoughts while providing a framework for doing so. The organizers can even be used to improve the ability to process information. Learners are more likely to process the information by separating it from what's important and what isn't so important. Over time, graphic organizers help learners become strategic problem solvers. However, don't just take my word on this topic. There is a growing body of research and articles that clearly show their value and effectiveness. The use of graphic organizers can also improve test scores, providing they're used effectively, consistently and as an integral part of the problem solving process. The use of a graphic organizer can start as early as grade 1 or 2 and can even help learners through high school. If they're used consistently through school, they'll assist learners in strategic thinking to the point that they'll no longer need the graphic organizer.

How a Graphic Organizer in Math Is Used

A typical graphic organizer has the problem written on it. The paper is divided into 4 quadrants with the problem at the top, in the middle or in some cases just in a book or hand out. The first quadrant is for the student to determine what the actual problem is looking for. The second quadrant is used to determine what strategies are needed. The 3rd quadrant is used to show how the problem will be solved The fourth quadrant is used to answer the question that is initially being asked and to indicate why the answer is what it is. 

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 were 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 use, you'll find that when it's used effectively and consistently, enhanced problem solving will be the result.