Many times throughout this book, I had major AHA! moments when relating reading comprehension strategies to mathematics. This chapter, however, was the exception. I find that my students constantly struggle with completing word problems because they have a hard time “seeing” what is happening in the problem at hand. Despite knowing that they struggle, I didn’t know how to best support them in their learning. This is where my AHA! moment occurred during this chapter! 🙂
I often grew frustrated with my students for not being able to solve a problem, because in my mind, it was simple. I could visualize what was happening and could complete the math associated with my visualization. Sammons references Wilhelm and Miller who say that “studies show that most young readers [and mathematicians] do not spontaneously visualize as a reading strategy and are incapable of it even when prompted.” (Wilhelm 153) What does this mean for teachers? Few students in your classrooms are going to naturally be visualizing in your classroom. As teachers, we need to teach our students how to do this. Sammons also says that, “students who spend considerable amounts of time engaged in playing computer games or watching television (where the visual images are provided for them) often struggle to independently create mental images.” (Sammons 153) Who is surprised by that?!
In order to help students practice making visualizations, Sammons suggests starting with very simple tasks such as describing objects within the room, creating mental images of settings they are familiar with, picturing characters and settings while listening to read alouds, and eventually work towards creating mental images independently. Modeling think alouds and working in small groups can also allow students students to practice and compare making mental images. In small groups, Sammons suggests having students “Visualize, Draw, and Share” while completing a mathematical task. This chapter is full of suggestions to help your students visualize. My short synopsis and personal lesson learned is that taking this process slowly is the best way to support students who are having difficulty visualizing. Start with very simple tasks and work towards independence.
How do you help your students bring visualization into math class?