Master The Use Of Comparison Models (Bar Model Math)

Many students are well acquainted with comparison models(Bar Models) from a young age. According to the MOE syllabus, It has to be taught by teachers in schools at some point. Flip open “Shaping Maths” and you will see these are commonplace in our educational system. Now, over time students become very proficient in it in most of our schools. But for some reason, as they reach primary 6, all of a sudden, they no longer draw these models down on paper.Perhaps it is the sudden introduction of many non-routine concepts such as simultaneous concept and others which involves units and parts, which are very algebraic concepts.

Models help a student to understand better

Since they no longer rely very much on models, the thought processes takes place entirely in their heads without any visual to guide them. Now, let us tell you how complicated this can be as educators. Some questions test a variety of concepts. A single question can test on the before-after concept, a more than/less than concept with 3 or more characters. (Have you ever seen questions that has : Ali has 800 more than Mary but 200 less than Tom. Yes, these are questions with 3 or more characters) So the student has to juggle with all of these in his head, remembering that in order to find what Ali gave to Mary, he has to know Ali’s before and Ali’s after (This is a crude example. Forgive us!) and at the same time be mindful that a certain character has more than another character.

We tested this on students, students who do not like the idea of drawing models. Yes, these students get correct pretty often. But there is the occasion where they lose marks and get it wrong because they made a mistake due to a lack of visuals, a comparison model. And when you draw a model for them, they suddenly go : “Oh! This was what I did not do and that is why I got it wrong.

So just to summarize, the student could have gotten the question correct if they bothered to draw the model. Sometimes, this borders on overconfidence on the part of students. It is so simple. Draw a model and you have a visual understanding of the processes that takes place. You will know how much Ali has before and after, Mary has before and after and Tom’s before and after as well. And then, you can go about solving the rest of the question.

So for those students who do have the habit of drawing models, please cultivate that habit. It is just another tool for you to understand better, solve better. And as parents, we should reinforce that. But a lot of times, it just becomes a habit with some of the better students. They have it all up there in their heads, all the moving parts, the before’s and the after’s, the transfers, and then, at some point, their heads hold too much information and their solving process is thus affected.

So make it a habit to really use models. It will really help at some point to get those extra few marks that mean the difference between the A star and the A. As the saying goes : The Chains of Habit Are Too Light To Be Felt Until They Are Too Heavy To Be Broken.

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