Math 3-6

Multiple Representations: Visual Representations


Visual representations help students understand what a number represents as well as recognize relationships between numbers. Using visuals, such as pictures, diagrams, and charts, allows for additional Speed of Processing time and enhances students' understanding of mathematical concepts such as fractions, ratios, and geometric shapes. Research cautions that students in late elementary and early middle school can struggle with connecting a diagram to a problem, possibly due to an overload on their Working Memory. So teachers need to support students in learning how to understand and apply visuals that accompany problems.

Use It in the Classroom

At 1:22, watch how this teacher embeds visual representations in her math lesson. By providing these modalities in her class, she is supporting her learners in developing a deeper understanding of number inequalities.

  • Teachers can choose visuals that help students see math differently -- to see the creativity in math and to see math concepts from a new lens. Using visual representations can also lead to clearer delivery of content and greater retention of key concepts in Long-term Memory.
  • Design It into Your Product

    Videos are chosen as examples of strategies in action. These choices are not endorsements of the products or evidence of use of research to develop the feature.

    Watch how DragonBox Algebra 5+ uses visuals to teach algebraic concepts to learners as young as 5. By presenting algebraic Operations with visuals, learners understand fundamental algebraic relationships in game manner without text.

  • For a developer, creating dynamic models can make Geometric, Proportional, Statistical Reasoning more accessible to learners. These models also can serve as a visual cue to help learner's accurately retrieve from their Long-term Memory the content associated with the visual.
  • Factors Supported by this Strategy

    Social and Emotional Learning