Analyzing the impact of Structures of Equality in classrooms
For years, teachers have struggled with how to help students with word problems. A quick internet search will pull up tons of strategies for solving word problems. The barrier? None of them adequately address the issue of reading comprehension.
“Word problems in mathematics often pose a challenge because they require that students read and comprehend the text of the problem, identify the question that needs to be answered, and finally create and solve a numerical equation.” (Reading Rockets, Brenda Krick-Morales)
A Quick Recap
In blog 1, we dug into the reasons students struggle with word problems and teacher frustrations.
In blog 2, we further discussed the challenges with math word problems due to comprehension issues and the shortcomings of 4 common strategies.
In blog 3, you got a brief introduction to the SoEs and how they came to be.
In blog 4, you learned about the components of SoEs (values, labels, and the line of equality) and how they were inspired by Singapore bar models.
But do they work?
Structures of Equality is a reading comprehension tool to help students understand what story problems are asking. When students understand the context of a story, they can successfully determine which operation to use. No more plucking out a number, looking for a key word, or randomly choosing an operation.
And when students understand what problems are asking them to do, teachers are able to assess what students know and can do around the mathematics.
The data speaks for itself.
Classroom 1 – consistent use of Structures of Equality
Classroom 2 – some use of Structures of Equality
Classroom 3 – little to no use of Structures of Equality
Scores were directly correlated with the consistency of implementation of SoEs. Classrooms with higher use had higher scores. This included students that were not projected to pass their EOGs at the beginning of the year.
Okay, they work. But why?
Structures of Equality is a reading comprehension tool. To complete the diagram, students must have an understanding of what the problem is asking. Through explicit, scaffolded instruction students learn how to dissect story problems to make sense of them. They then create visual representations that help them determine which operation to use.
These models allow teachers to see where comprehension is breaking down. It also ensures that teachers understand whether the misconceptions students have are related to understanding what the problem is asking, or the computations.
How do I begin?
Explore Singapore bar models, the foundation upon which SoEs were built.
Incorporating Structures of Equality (SoEs) fosters math comprehension by aiding students in understanding problem contexts and selecting appropriate operations. Consistent SoE use correlates with improved scores, benefiting both struggling and proficient students. Educators can leverage these tools to enhance teaching strategies and empower students with problem-solving.