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How to Teach Algebra With Graphic Organizers

Updated February 21, 2017

Graphic organisers may be tables, flow charts, graphs, Venn diagrams, number lines or any relevant visual diagram. They are beneficial as part of the algebra curriculum, whether you are teaching introductory algebra or introducing increasingly higher level concepts. Graphic organisers help students organise their thoughts and solve problems in a step-by-step fashion. They may also be used for note-taking or as visual sources of key information that they refer to frequently. You can teach algebra using the same graphic organisers previous educators have employed or create your own to cater to your specific learners.

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  1. Introduce the concept of solving for variables in basic algebraic equations by using spider maps; demonstrate using a spider map on the board followed by supplying the students with similar worksheets. Write a simple algebraic equation in the centre of the spider map, such as 2a+b=15. Each extension or leg of the spider map should have a possible solution for the variables, such as a=7 and b=1 or a=5 and b=5. Ask students for some solutions to contribute to the spider map.

  2. Make a graphic organiser in the form of a table with your class that includes vocabulary words representative of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. In terms of algebra, students can refer to this chart when it comes to transforming verbal language into algebraic expressions. Construct a table with four columns, where each heading represents one of the operations. Under addition include sum, credit, plus and so forth; under subtraction write difference, minus and withdraw; under multiplication, include product, double and times; and under division, write quotient, split, divide and so on.

  3. Show students how to solve algebraic problems using steps by drawing a flow chart on the board; ask students to solve all in-class and homework assignments using the same flow chart method. For example, for a systems of equations problem, draw the first box and write "define variables." Draw an arrow from this box to the next box and write inside this box "define the equations." For the next box, write "solve the system of equations showing all your work" and for the final box write "final solution."

  4. Show students how to solve algebraic problems related to overlapping sets of numbers using Venn diagrams. For example, consider a problem such as, in a class of 24 students, 12 enjoy basketball, 6 enjoy photography and 15 enjoy cooking. Of the 24, 2 students enjoy both basketball and photography, 2 enjoy both photography and cooking and 1 student enjoys all three activities. How many students enjoy both basketball and cooking? Draw a three-circle Venn diagram and give each circle one of the activity headings. Label the section of the Venn diagram where basketball and cooking intersect with a variable. Label the rest of the sections with the appropriate expressions and construct an algebraic expression, where 24 is the answer to the equation, to solve for the variable.

  5. Encourage students to graphically organise their notes in math class so that they can easily access information while completing worksheets or studying. For example, students can construct a table with three headings, such as "concept," "explanation" and "example," states Landmark College. Present new notes in the same format on the board or overhead projection whenever you introduce new math concepts.

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About the Author

Michelle Brunet has published articles in newspapers and magazines such as "The Coast," "Our Children," "Arts East," "Halifax Magazine" and "Atlantic Books Today." She earned a Bachelor of Science in environmental studies from Saint Mary's University and a Bachelor of Education from Lakehead University.

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